Social control over men’s and women’s sexual relationships among early medieval Germanic peoples
Languages of publication
This study is an analysis of the early medieval sources which contain information on sexual relations between men and women. The research subject is the authority executed by a community (e.g. a kin, or a tribe) over sexual life of the women and men, and especially the legal rules and customs regulating this sphere of life. Female and male sexual behaviors in the early Middle Ages are investigated from the point of view of the social expectations towards persons of both sexes. The basis of the studies on such a topic are two kinds of source materials - the laws of Germanic peoples (so called leges barbarorum), and narrative texts. Two main problems covered in the laws concerning sexual interactions are premarital and extramarital (i.e. fornication and adultery) relations initiated by women and men. A lawgivers’ belief that women’s sexual initiative should be controlled by men is clearly seen in the Germanic leges. Breaking the law in this domain by a woman often resulted in far more serious consequences than in the case of a man. A similar tendency could be seen in Historiae by Gregory from Tours. The lack of woman’s independent position, which contrasts with the decisive role that men took, both her partner and her relatives, is striking in his stories on sexual relations.
Publication order reference