Mystery Equals Power: A Couple of Thoughts on Sexism Watching Terry Jones' MEDIEVAL LIVES Watching Terry Jones' MEDIEVAL LIVES, a particular fact in the "Damsel" episode (here's the video cued up to the pertinent bit, but I recommend watching it all afterward below, embedded) I was struck by:
So to recap: if a husband was unable to perform for his wife, his frustrated wife could in turn seek redress in court, and the husband would be subjected to examination--of whether his member could function--by "respected women." (before you start panting, this would generally mean "quite aged") This implies an openness and matter-of-fact attitude about discussion of sex. Rather than some untouchable mystery, it would be treated as something as normal as eating or working, and to be dealt with as practically. Indeed, the medieval era has always been known to be relatively open on the subject, certainly far more so than the Victorians or even the Renaissance (who, Jones reminds us, were the ones who gave us witch-burning, and mostly as an overt means of destroying women's status in society). And--partly due to a shortage of labor for a long period after the Black Death--women had greater rights at that time than they did at any point afterward until very recently. In times sex can be discussed openly and freely, women usually have more rights than in times it cannot. In times when women's rights are ebbing, it tends to be fiercely repressed: the Victorian era would be a particular example. Possibly because if talk about sex is freer, the possibility of men being criticized for their sexual shortcomings is also greater. And going with that, the lessening of an inherent assumption men should be in charge. The subject of sex is censored in societies only to tighten the hegemony of men.
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson