What Medieval Lesbians Did in Bed
This episode looks at the historic evidence for the specific sexual techniques enjoyed between women in the middle ages and Renaissance. Caution: although this essay isn’t intended as erotica, it does include a lot of detailed technical descriptions of bodies, sex acts, and sex toys. The content is very definitely Not Safe For Work.
In this episode we talk about
- What are the sources of historic evidence for this question?
- Which sources can we trust for what women were actually doing, and which ones are more likely to be about what men thought they were doing?
- Did the repertoire of sexual techniques change over time? Was it different indifferent places?
- What was the range of activities that medieval people considered to be “sex”? How did it differ from modern definitions?
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This major sources used for this podcast are discussed in more detail at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project:
- Benkov, Edith. “The Erased Lesbian: Sodomy and the Legal Tradition in Medieval Europe” in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages. ed. by Francesca Canadé Sautman & Pamela Sheingorn. Palgrave, New York, 2001. (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lesbian-historic-motif-project-22-benkov-2001-erased-lesbian-sodomy-and-legal-tradition)
- Borris, Kenneth (ed). 2004. Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470-1650. Routledge, New York. ISBN 978-1-138-87953-9 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/publication/4356)
- Brown, Judith C. 1984. “Lesbian Sexuality in Renaissance Italy: The Case of Sister Benedetta Carlini” in Signs 9 (1984): 751-58. (reprinted in: Freedman, Esteele B., Barbara C. Gelpi, Susan L. Johnson & Kathleen M. Weston. 1985. The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-2256-26151-4) (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lhmp-115-brown-1984-lesbian-sexuality-renaissance-italy-case-sister-benedetta-carlini)
- Crompton, Louis. 1985. “The Myth of Lesbian Impunity: Capital Laws from 1270 to 1791” in Licata, Salvatore J. & Robert P. Petersen (eds). The Gay Past: A Collection of Historical Essays. Harrington Park Press, New York. ISBN 0-918393-11-6 (Also published as Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 6, numbers 1/2, Fall/Winter 1980.) (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lhmp-129-crompton-1985-myth-lesbian-impunity-capital-laws-1270-1791)
- Lansing, Carol. 2005. “Donna con Donna? A 1295 Inquest into Female Sodomy” in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History: Sexuality and Culture in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Third Series vol. II: 109-122. (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lhmp-117-lansing-2005-donna-con-donna-1295-inquest-female-sodomy)
- Matter, E. Ann. 1989. “My Sister, My Spouse: Woman-Identified Women in Medieval Christianity” in Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, eds. Judith Plaskow & Carol P. Christ. Harper & Row, San Francisco. (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lesbian-historic-motif-project-50-matter-1989-my-sister-my-spouse-woman-identified-women)
- Merrick, Jeffrey & Bryant T. Ragan, Jr. 2001. Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-19-510257-6 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/publication/3995)
- Mills, Robert. 2015. Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 978-0-226-16912-5 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/publication/4795)
- Murray, Jacqueline. 1996. "Twice marginal and twice invisible: Lesbians in the Middle Ages" in Handbook of Medieval Sexuality, ed. Vern L. Bullough and James A. Brundage, Garland Publishing,. pp. 191-222 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lesbian-historic-motif-project-18-murray-1996-twice-marginal-and-twice-invisible-lesbians)
- Puff, Helmut. 2000. "Female Sodomy: The Trial of Katherina Hetzeldorfer (1477)" in Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies: 30:1, 41-61. (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lesbian-historic-motif-project-2-puff-2000-female-sodomy-trial-katherina-hetzeldorfer-1477)
- Schibanoff, Susan. “Hildegard of Bingen and Richardis of Stade: The Discourse of Desire” in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages (ed. by Francesca Canadé Sautman & Pamela Sheingorn), Palgrave, New York, 2001. (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/lesbian-historic-motif-project-20-schibanoff-2001-hildegard-bingen-and-richardis-stade)
- Traub, Valerie. 2002. The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-44885-9 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/publication/4372)
- Velasco, Sherry. 2011. Lesbians in Early Modern Spain. Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville. ISBN 978-0-8265-1750-0 (http://alpennia.com/lhmp/publication/4949)
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