Loose Women: Attitudes about the Oldest Medieval Profession

Don't snicker! This week's Aoife's Links takes a serious, scholarly look at the sexuality of women and the profession of prostitution through the Middle Ages.

Greetings My Faithful Readers!

This links list is about medieval attitudes regarding Prostitution and Women's Sexuality. I learned a lot while researching this list. For instance, for many of our medieval counterparts, prostitutes were considered a necessary part of society. Doctors and Church fathers were polar opposites regarding whether or not abstinence was healthy. And, since most young men didn't marry until age 24 or later, you can readily see how the attitude that prostitutes saved the "gentle women" (that'd be the noble Mom, Daughter, and Sister) from certain ravishment came about.

If you read this particular list for titillation, you might be surprised at what you find. Only one site is light-hearted, and even that one manages to spread some information with its cheesy illustrations of fancy women. Oh yes--there are no illustrations of naked people in this links list. Sorry to disappoint you, but there you have it. We're safe in knowing that this list is completely visually clean. There is, however, the odd reference to body parts and bodily function.

So, dive in, learn something, and understand our chosen culture a little better.

Cheers

Aoife

m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc


Tanja Garrett: Thesis
http://mcel.pacificu.edu/history/dept/students/theses2000/garrett/garret...
(Site Excerpt) Augustine did not condone "unnatural sex," but he understood human nature in that there would always be a demand for sex, "Banish prostitutes and you reduce society to chaos through unsatisfied lust."

Brown University: Prostitution in the Middle Ages: Prostitution and Canon Law
http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/society/sex/prosti...
(Site Excerpt) It was accepted as fact that young men would seek out sexual relations regardless of their options, and thus prostitution served to protect "respectable" townswomen from seduction and even rape. In 1358, the Grand Council of Venice declared that prostitution was "absolutely indispensable to the world".

Medieval Sourcebook: Corpus Iuris Civilis: The Digest and Codex: Marriage Laws
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cjc-marriage.html
(Site Excerpt) Where a freedwoman is living in concubinage with her patron, she can leave him without his consent, and unite with another man, either in matrimony or in concubinage. I think, however, that a concubine should not have the right to marry if she leaves her patron without his consent, since it is more honorable for a freedwoman to be the concubine of a patron than to become the mother of a family.

ORB: Rape and Prostitution
http://www.the-orb.net/textbooks/anthology/beidler/rape.html
(Site Excerpt) They also institutionalized prostitution as a form of rape control. In an age when economic and social conditions were such that few men married before the age of 24 (women tended to marry at a younger age), those who managed the cities openly recognized the need to protect their wives and daughters by providing for regulated and organized prostitution. Indeed, the city leaders often set aside a specific part of town--usually away from the center but not too far away--for prostitution.

Brothels, Baths and Babes: Prostitution in the Byzantine Holy Land
Claudine Dauphin
http://www.ucd.ie/classics/96/Dauphin96.html
(Site Excerpt) Graeco-Roman domestic sexuality rested on a triad: the wife, the concubine and the courtesan. The fourth century BC Athenian orator Apollodoros made it very clear in his speech Against Neaira quoted by Demosthenes (59.122) that 'we have courtesans for pleasure, and concubines for the daily service of our bodies, but wives for the production of legitimate offspring and to have reliable guardians of our household property'.

HOOKER HEROES: Prostitutes Who Changed the World
by Blake Linton Wilfong
http://wondersmith.com/heroes/index.htm
(Site Excerpt) Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only the pyramids of Egypt remain standing today--and according to legend, one of them was built for the famous prostitute Rhodopis. Originally a Greek slave, Rhodopis lived in the sixth century B.C. During her childhood, she worked in the same household as the slave Aesop, the renowned author of fables. She was eventually taken to Egypt to work as a prostitute. In what is surely one of history's greatest true love stories, a Greek wine merchant named Charaxus became so enamored of Rhodopis that he paid a huge sum of money to buy her freedom.

Sex, Society, and Medieval Women
***Warning: Frank talk about bodily functions***
http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/medsex/medsexfrm.htm
(Site Excerpt) Moral authorities grudgingly acknowledged sex to be not inherently sinful, but very strictly delineated the ways in which sex could be used without spiritual consequences. Medical authorities, by contrast, considered sex to be an essential part of bodily health, noting that abstention could lead to a dangerous buildup of the "seminal humor."

History 398Y, "Sex in History"
Essay 2: Analytical Essay

http://alcor.concordia.ca/~shannon/398YBibliographies.htm
While this is an assignment for a college course, sources are given for the subject material.

About: Romanesque Churches and Sexual Symbols
http://goeurope.about.com/cs/sex/a/sexual_carvings.htm
(Site Excerpt) I am not necessarily a fan of Cathedral gazing when I travel. This year, a book I read, called "Images of Lust: Sexual Carvings on Medieval Churches" by Anthony Weir and James Jerman, changed all that. "Sexual imagery in cathedrals? Is he mad?," I can hear you asking. Well, madness is besides the point--I have pictures.

Casting Stones: The Theology of Prostitution
by Rita Nakashima Brock
http://www.mlode.com/~ra/ra3/castingstones.htm
(Site Excerpt) While the money paid to prostitutes is paid for an unlawful purpose, according to Aquinas, the giving itself is not unlawful and the woman could retain what she received. In other words, prostitutes protect the "good" women of the family from the demands of male sin.

Ruth Mazo Karras, Professor of History, University of Minnesota http://cla.umn.edu/rmk/ The home page of a noted expert on Medieval Sexuality and women's roles in history. Her works are listed.