There was a lot to like about medieval times… actually, no. There wasn’t. There was war, famine, disease, and if you weren’t lucky enough to be born into royalty, you’d be pretty much guaranteed to be shoveling poop for the rest of your days. True, it sounds a lot like our modern world, but back then you couldn’t even get some harmless bedroom fun without the authorities involved. So before you jump into your time machine to get your medieval freak on, you might wanna learn these bizarre and very backwards sex facts from the Middle Ages. #14 Will Stun You!
1. Women Masturbated With Loaves Of Bread
People have to get their rocks off somehow, but what’s a lady going to do if she’s got not money? Not use her hands – that’d be filthy. No, it’s better to use a hard, stale bread roll. Which is what they actually did. Some linguists even speculate that the word “dildo” comes from “dill dough”, i.e. herbed bread. Mmm, tasty.
2. Sex Before Marriage Was A Really Bad Thing
Guy or girl, having premarital sex (or cheating on your spouse) was a big no-no. If you were caught, or anyone reported you to the Church, you could end up in far more hot water than just a costly divorce. Would have made that Ashley Madison leak far more terrifying, that’s for sure.
3. …And The Punishment Was Ridiculously Harsh
The guys, for once, copped the worst of it for stepping out of line. In one notorious instance, the French King Philip IV found out his sons’ wives were having affairs but didn’t punish the women directly. Instead, he captured the lovers and had them publicly disemboweled. There’s no mention of them repeating that mistake.
4. Erectile Dysfunction Was A Big Deal
Yep – if you couldn’t perform, then the Church would get all over your business. Not being able to produce kids (and therefore strengthening the Christian empire) was a major problem, and could lead to your marriage being annulled. Though why you’d put your junk up for inspection is another mystery entirely.
5. There Was Only One “Pole” Position: Missionary
The Church really has gotten a lot more prudish these days. In medieval times, they were basically the Buzzfeed for sex, and even ranked sex positions from least sinful to most sinful. If you wanted to do it the Church way, then you pretty much had to stick to missionary. The most sinful was the cowgirl – a woman on top could get all kinds of funny ideas about power.
6. Looking Was Okay, Touching Was Not
And the tenth commandment did say “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lovely breasts”. And lo, everyone did it anyway because we’re human as hell. And lo, those sneaky medieval dudes made up “courtly love” so you could covet any married woman in peace. And lo, problem solved.
7. Anal Sex Was A Sin
Putting a literal spin on the phrase “hell hole”, going on the dark ride would get you nowhere near heaven. The only real complaint from the Church, oddly enough, was that you couldn’t make babies that way. Though we’ve pushed out some hungover turds that almost have a life of their own.
8. Oral Sex Was Also a Really Big Sin
Yeah alright, Church, we get it. We’re not allowed to do anything with our lovely bits but put them in the correct slots. We know that you’ve got scripture to back it up. We know that “Whoever ejaculates seed into the mouth, that is the worst evil.” It’s just that she really said that she needed a stiffer toothbrush.
9. Men Just Loved To Show Off Their Size
Since dick pics hadn’t quite been invented yet, men had to find another way to proudly tell the world how beautiful their dong was. They had two solutions. First: long, pointy shoes, coz you know what they say about a man’s feet. Secondly was the codpiece, a cloth or metal pouch over their actual junk to exaggerate the effect. Of course, once men begin a pissing contest it’s hard to stop them, and eventually some ceremonial codpieces in central Europe reached an outrageous three feet long.
10. The Dating Scene Was Incredibly Boring
A lot of the elements of a date were just like our modern times – like the woman plucking her hair (for that hot high-forehead look) and both man and woman lathering themselves in perfume. The only difference was that the dates were chaperoned, and most of the time the couple couldn’t even say a word to each other. You’d have to have some pretty expressive eyes to get anywhere.
11. Theologians Ranked Sexual Positions Based on Sin Level
We’ve already told you about Buzzfeed: God Edition, but it’s pretty surprising to discover just how the other sex positions were ranked by those dirty old theologians. After the holy missionary, from best to worst it was side-by-side, sitting, standing, then doggy style (classily called “a tergo” in those days). Those side-by-siders must have been real daredevils.
12. If You’re Trying to Have a Kid, You Better Not Enjoy It
Even if you’ve ticked (or tickled) all the boxes, you could still wind up in hell for just enjoying sex. You’ve got married, you’re still a virgin, you’ve settled into missionary for the express purpose of popping a kid out, and… suddenly your dirty animal body is sending you all kinds of pleasure signals. Stop that at once! How dare you!
13. Child Brides Were Totally A Thing, But Not Quite Like That
Everybody knows about the, um, fairly young marriage practices of the bad old days, but it wasn’t quite as bad people think. You would often get arranged into marriage around 10 or 11 years old, but most of the time you didn’t actually meet your spouse until a good half a decade later. Alright, yes, it’s still super wrong.
14. If Women Prayed Hard Enough, They Got Their Virginity Back
In a surprising fit of leniency towards the fairer sex, apparently the Church allowed women to reclaim their virginity through pious acts such as confession, penance, and being shut up in a convent. By the time you got it back, though, you probably wouldn’t know what to do with it.
15. Condoms Were Made Of Intestines
While they might seem like a new invention, our little rubber friends have been around for centuries. Only they weren’t rubber back then – actually they were made from (ew) animal guts – and they were (double ew) also reused. A lot. Strangely, though, back then the Church didn’t care half as much about them as they do now.
16. If You Lost Your Virginity To Your Husband, You Got A Prize
This is probably one tradition that we should have kept. Okay, maybe not the part about having to wait until marriage, but the part where you get a bundle of cash for offering up the sacred cherry. You know, instead of just a bundle of regrets and a suddenly absent boyfriend.
17. People Were Pretty Cool with Brothels
For all the huffing and puffing about huffing and puffing, brothels were surprisingly on the “That’s Fine By Us” list. The Church turned a blind eye, and working in the sex industry was more or less a respectable profession. Although not a very hygienic one, most likely.
18. Being Gay Pretty Much Sucked
You could argue that not much has gotten better for the queer community these days, but back in the Middle Ages even coming out of the closet would have been a wonderful dream. If you were gay, or even suspected of it, or even pitched “The L Word” to theater executives, you could expect a horribly violent death. Like hanging, burning, or slowly being starved to death. We may not have made great leaps since then, but at least some baby steps.
19. But Some Medieval Celebs Did It Anyway
If you were in a position of very high power, you sometimes could get away with a bit of man-on-man. According to legend, Richard I, King of England (also known by his stage name, Richard the Lionheart) had the hots for King Philip II of France, and the two carried on a secret but beautiful affair for years. Good on ‘em.
20. Celibacy Was Always The Best Way To Go
With all these rules and regulations and damnation and finger-pointing, the best thing to do was to just forget all about it and abstain entirely. Virgins were prized above all in the Church, so while you would have been stupidly horny, 24/7, you’d still get a lot of respect. Not the best trade-off, but somewhat better than getting fed to the crows.