Weird History
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What Sex Was Like in Medieval Times

Updated December 23, 2020 2.2m views6 items
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Even though sexual relations are considered different now than in the Middle Ages, people across time have always dealt with similar issues, just in different ways. For example, people have oft tried to figure out how to have intercourse without getting pregnant. People have the same concerns about performance or lack of experience. And people have been scared about the prospective sinfulness of their intimate lives for centuries. Literally. Regardless of geographic location or point in time, those actively engaged in intimate relations have also shouldered concerns about sexual health and prosperity.

Although society's perspective on sexuality may have changed since the Middle Ages, some details of how people got down to business are surprisingly still relevant. Albeit, the reasoning may not be quite so similar. How people sexually interact may have changed throughout the centuries, but fundamental principles still ring true: humans are drawn to the exploration of the body and the pleasures it may afford.

Photo:
  • For A While, Priests Were Actually Permitted To Marry

    Photo: British Library / Picryl / Public Domain

    It wasn't until the late 11th century that the Roman Catholic Church began to impose celibacy upon its clergy. Before this, priests could marry and were also expected to raise their sons to be priests as well. By this time, however, the Eucharist was becoming increasingly sacred.

    The notion that priests could take a roll in the hay with their wives and then touch the altar and sacrament didn't sit well with higher-ups in the Church.

  • Want More Medieval Life?

    Photo: Kingdom of Heaven / Amazon

    The more we learn about the medieval era, the clearer it becomes that this was no primitive "Dark Age." It was a period of great change, of religious and military conflicts, and surprisingly complex social relationships. For those looking to explore this rich chapter of history, check out the following staff picks for what to read, watch, and buy next.

    Medieval Warrior: Weapons, Technology, And Fighting Techniques is a fully-illustrated guide to the battles, warriors, victories, and defeats that shaped Europe from 1000 to 1500 AD. Containing 300 color illustrations and in-depth breakdowns of medieval warfare, it dispels the myth of messy, disorganized "Dark Age" fighting. It also covers the various soldiers that participated in these conflicts, from English longbowmen to Norman knights, Hussite handgunners, and Mongol horse archers.

    The director's cut of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is considered an excellent cinematic depiction of the moral and cultural conflicts surrounding the Crusades. And while The 13th Warrior takes some license with its Viking protagonists, some of it is based on the real 10th century account of Ahmed ibn Fadlan, an Arabic traveler who encountered Norsemen.

    There are also a number of video games that strive for historical accuracy. These include Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Age of Empires 2. 

    For the collector looking for medieval-era replicas, various merchants offer period-accurate helmetsgauntlets, and even utensils.

    Ranker also offers a growing library of lists that explore the various aspects of medieval life:

    13 Of The Dumbest Things Pop Culture Has Us Believe About Medieval Knights

    18 Medieval Artifacts That Made Us Say ‘Whoa’

    9 Medieval Knights So Savage They Sound Made Up - But Aren’t