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January 21, 2014 4:07 PM   Subscribe

The Flowchart of Medieval Penitent Sex from here, at the History Blog.
posted by bswinburn (35 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like the restrictions on monks telling you more about what was actually going on.

"ONE MONK TO A BED MEANS ONE MONK TO A BED, YES EVEN IT'S REALLY BIG BED."
posted by The Whelk at 4:11 PM on January 21 [8 favorites]


I think it's cool that they used flowcharts all the way back in medieval times.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on January 21 [18 favorites]


I suppose it doesn't really matter, but I still think it's funny that "Are you in Church" is so far down the list.
posted by ckape at 4:13 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this; I know a few Catholic women who will find this useful. They're always complaining that there's no simple way to know when the Church is okay with them having sex with their wives.
posted by koeselitz at 4:15 PM on January 21 [22 favorites]


So what's up with the three day wait after getting married? If you have to wait three days what the point of getting married?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:16 PM on January 21


This jibes with my memories from a paper I did in one of my college classes on the penitentials. The paper was titled "40 Days of Bread and Water" with the subtitle that told you what it was actually about.
posted by immlass at 4:16 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I know a few Catholic women who will find this useful. They're always complaining that there's no simple way to know when the Church is okay with them having sex with their wives.

I know it's a typo, but this made me do a double take.
posted by nubs at 4:17 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


Why not Wednesday?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:17 PM on January 21


>>I know it's a typo...

I totally think it's not a typo - and it kills.
posted by j_curiouser at 4:20 PM on January 21 [17 favorites]


So what's up with the three day wait after getting married? If you have to wait three days what the point of getting married?

During that time God does the equivalent of a firearms background check.
posted by XMLicious at 4:20 PM on January 21 [14 favorites]


It's also interesting to think about the difference between this document, from what, around 760, with later Church treatment of marital sacrament — by the Carolingian renaissance, they were all for it, and by the 1300s, it was a duty to satisfy your wife (as wives were seen as the drivers of lust, suborning those poor innocent men into carnal pleasures).
posted by klangklangston at 4:21 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


You should just join the monastic rders so you can get into arguments over who is mortifying the flesh THE MOST, whips! Chains! Whips with little hooks at the end! Shirts filled with fleas!
posted by The Whelk at 4:23 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


So what's up with the three day wait after getting married? If you have to wait three days what the point of getting married?

Cooling off period.

Less jokingly, I wonder if there were advantages in a world with very poor food security, no birth control, and a high rate of dying in childbirth of discouraging sex as a roundabout way of lowering the birth rate?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:25 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


It was not a typo, nubs.
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


You should just join the monastic rders so you can get into arguments over who is mortifying the flesh THE MOST, whips! Chains! Whips with little hooks at the end!

Well, where else would you go to find men with similar interests to your own? It's not as if they had invented leather bars yet...
posted by ennui.bz at 4:28 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Why not Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday perhaps.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:30 PM on January 21


Well, where else would you go to find men with similar interests to your own? It's not as if they had invented leather bars yet...

If I could draw, I'd be drawing Bear Jesus right now, so hard
posted by thelonius at 4:46 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


Wow. I read that chart and all I can think of is this. (SFW)
posted by mosk at 4:54 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Maybe the idea was that by following these rules, ahem, religiously, nuns wouldn't be surprised by suddenly giving birth:

Nun who gave birth in Italy 'unaware of pregnancy'

A nun who gave birth to a baby boy in the central Italian city of Rieti, said she had no idea she was pregnant, local media report.

The 31-year-old was rushed to hospital with abdominal pains, which she thought were stomach cramps.

The baby has been named after Pope Francis.


It might have also been a way to curtail the epidemic of virgin births that occurred since time immemorial right up until today:

Claims of virgin births in U.S. near 1 percent: study

"(Reuters) - Nearly 1 percent of young women in a U.S. study who have become pregnant claim to have done so as virgins, according to a report in the Christmas edition of Britain's BMJ medical journal."

The Virgin Mary got away with it, but after that, the Church clamped down - and that way, today it's down to only 1% or so. Can you imagine how common it would have been had the Church not instituted these rules? Whew. "Joseph, we are very pleased you married Mary our daughter, for she is a virgin of great chastity and moral purity." "Oh, so how come she's pregnant? Did the Devil secretly implant a child in her without her knowledge? I think I'm going to quietly divorce her!" "No, no, nothing like that, see, she's still a virgin and it was God who put the child in, so there!" "Ah, I see. Very well then, that changes everything!" "So what are we going to say?" "I'll just say I saw an angel who explained everything!". And billions of people thereafter marvelled at this wonderful miracle, and the power of Christianity grew and grew, and the Church celebrates that virginity to this very day. Though they did think it was enough to have just one, and all those who came after with similar claims were burned at the stake.
posted by VikingSword at 4:54 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Wednesday is a day of fasting in some periods in Christianity because of it being the day Jesus was betrayed. Friday is the same because it's the day of the crucifixion.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:55 PM on January 21


This reminds me of George Carlin's bit about how many sins are committed in the thinking, planning, attempt, and actual deed of touching his girlfriend's breast. Can't remember how many - it's at least six.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:56 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


This flow chart has been floating around for a bit; my early modern British history prof always gave copies out for fun.
posted by jb at 5:00 PM on January 21


If he defiles himself (masturbates), he is to abstain from meat for four days.
He who desires to fornicate (with) himself (i.e., to masturbate) and is not able to do so, he must fast for 40 days or 20 days.


So if I parse this part correctly, the only way to be godly is to be a constantly masturbating vegetarian?
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:07 PM on January 21 [6 favorites]


Abstain from meat

Since all of my knowledge of medieval Europe is via monks I am reminded of the edict that only sick brothers could get meat Suddently the Hospitol became the biggest dormitory in the place.

Also from another point of view, someone not eating meat was less of a strain on the resources, so you come up with reasons.
posted by The Whelk at 5:24 PM on January 21


So if I parse this part correctly, the only way to be godly is to be a constantly masturbating vegetarian?

Given the Lenten rules that fish <> meat, you could also be a pescatarian, but only as long as you cranked one out every time you thought about doing so.
posted by graymouser at 5:29 PM on January 21


"Have you ever really read this thing? Technically, we're not allowed to go to the bathroom."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:29 PM on January 21 [8 favorites]


Catholic school condensed into a single chart (at least in my experience).
posted by Relay at 6:16 PM on January 21


I had a professor who studied penitential literature. He said that there was a lot of advice on how priests could ask people in confession whether they had committed sin X or not... without giving them ideas for new sins they hadn't yet thought of.
posted by edheil at 7:13 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


without giving them ideas for new sins they hadn't yet thought of.

"I got six Hail Marys and three good leads!"
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:33 PM on January 21 [9 favorites]


"If the effeminate male (bædling) fornicates with another effeminate male (bædling), (he is to) do penance for 10 years. Whoever does this unintentionally (unwærlice) once must fast for 4 years"

It would seem the "whoops, didn't mean to put my penis in there" defense dates back at least 1200 years.
posted by Room 101 at 8:07 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


This comes from James A. Brundage’s book Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, which is a readable, and quite beautiful book about the political nature of sex and the state. The last chapter, written during one of those perodical kurfiuffles about american power and sexuality, is one of the great defenses of humanity. it might be lols but how we work w/ bodies and bodies work w/ both church and state are so vital, and Brundage is just brilliant.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:57 PM on January 21 [7 favorites]


You should just join the monastic rders so you can get into arguments over who is mortifying the flesh THE MOST, whips! Chains! Whips with little hooks at the end!

Shit, if I'd known Pinhead was competing I wouldn't have even entered.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 AM on January 22


I look forward to the medieval menstrual flowchart.
posted by zippy at 7:54 AM on January 22


Little known fact from the oh-so-puritanical medieval period: babies were considered legitimate if any of the following were true:

1. The parents were married to each other at the time of conception.

2. The parents were married to each other before the time of birth.

3. The father paid a fee to the church to legitimize the baby. (Presumably, although I am not certain of this, because it's been years since I researched it, the parents would also need to be married by that point.) Yup, no surprise: You can wash bastardy off with cash.

Sans legitimacy, you were doubly stained (both born with Original Sin AND your parents' mortal sin of unlawful fornication), you couldn't inherit, and of course there were many vague social barriers in front of you.

Nonetheless, it was still always better to be born bastard to a nobleman than to be born 10 months after the Church wedding of two peasants. And, considering the threat of fratricide, or arranged marriage for daughters, it could even arguably sometimes be better than being born legitimately to a nobleman.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 PM on January 22


Medieval
posted by homunculus at 2:45 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


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