Sex in those times

by Jack Faber © 2021

Most manuscripts about King Arthur were written about 1000 to 1500 A.D. The authors naturally brought in the moral ideas of their time, had to bring in especially the moral ideas of the strengthened church but also of the ruling nobility. That it at the time, in which the legends played, in the Britannia of the 5th century, completely different moral conceptions gave, is a safe assumption.


Unfortunately, there are few manuscripts that give reliable accounts of that period. Some can be found between the lines in the Mabignonion, also in the manuscripts of Gildas there are passages that report about the time of post‐Celtic paganism, which was not long ago at that time. Gildas was a Christian monk in the 9th century and gave a far from friendly account of his pagan ancestors. In the earliest Welsh period records, which date from some time after the Arthurian period, there is also some evidence of the pagan period. The Christianization of Britain occurred from the end of the 6th century, so it can be confidently assumed that Arthur and his contemporaries – if they existed – were Celtic pagans and Christians were a numerically insignificant minority.

The narrative about the pure maid, the untouched virgin, and the virgin mistress, whom the knights loved in a purely platonic way and for whose honor they fought, is a courtly invention of later centuries that gained prominence in the context of the doctrine of the virgin mother of God. In pagan Britain of the 5th and 6th centuries, one can confidently assume otherwise.

Based on well‐documented pagan cultures of more recent times, it can be assumed that virginity was of importance primarily to the nobility and the wealthy classes. After all, it was a matter of marrying off the higher daughters as profitably as possible, i.e. in a way that would bring them property. The fact that the bride was untouched was due, on the one hand, to the man's secret fear that the bride would know more about sexual matters than the groom. Secondly, there were no previous lovers on the part of the bride who could force their way into married life or make demands. Third, it had been observed for a long time that young women could fall in love with their first lover in a lasting way and were more likely to be physically faithful to their husband. In the less affluent classes, however, there was no reason to be a virgin. On the contrary, girls with experience were more likely to hold on to a wealthier man.

That knights went on trips from time to time may have been true. Sitting around in your own house can wear you down. Going on a ride and getting to know more than just the neighbors may have been a good reason. But some will also have gone on raids — increasing one's possessions is in man's blood.

The idea of the knight in shining armor is completely wrong, such armor appeared only from the 11th century on. To hunt one went lightly dressed and avoided all accessories that could make noise. For fighting they wore animal skins and hides, sometimes reinforced with small pieces of bone sewn into them. Wolf skins were very common, as there were many wolves and the wolf skin protected against cuts and stings better than other skins. Helmets were at best tin pots or made of leather sewn several times, the fantasy helmets made of animal skulls were invented by illustrators of the 19th and 20th centuries. Chainmail could be afforded only by the super‐rich, as it had to be imported from the Orient, but passed from vanquished to victors. To capture a chainmail in battle was the absolute jackpot.

Roving knights depended on the hospitality of others. Hospitality was food and drink, but also a safe place to stay overnight. In England, autumn, winter and spring are cool or cold. People lay in bed in groups snuggled close together and warmed each other. Only the master and mistress slept together and warmed each other. The guest was alone and yet needed someone to keep warm. Knowing that the guest provided sufficient financial support for the bedmate in the event of pregnancy, and that receiving a bastard brought no shame, it was considered quite normal to lie with the guest. The wealthier a guest was, the more the daughters or maids tried to lie with the guest and fuck him. If a guest was unusually ugly, he often had to freeze miserably if he was unable to subdue one of the servants by more or less force. If, however, the guest was handsome, muscular, and radiated virility, then it certainly happened that the lady of the house would lie down in his bed herself. Depending on wealth and status, the host tolerated it shrugging his shoulders or the mistress had to become inventive. A well‐described example may be the Jack of all trades of Isolde Weißhaar, who secretly put her virgin maid Brangaine into the bed of old King Marke, so that the king could deflower his pretended bride and fuck her afterwards if necessary, while the clever Isolde lay with her Tristan.

The pagan Celtic society did not let the Romans interfere in their sexuality, they ducked and despised the many restrictions the Romans imposed on them. But as soon as the Romans were gone, their sexual ideas and rules came to life again. Of course, only a small part of the time was dedicated to sex; one had to take care of hunting, gathering wood, harvest fruits, tilling the fields and cooking. The Romans' idea of shamefulness went with the occupiers; the Celts did not know the concept of shamefulness. We certainly could not comprehend how shameless, permissive and obscene sexuality was lived out in public at that time. Fucking or masturbation were something quite natural that one did not have to hide or conceal. If one came into a chamber, in which straight two screwed, one simply looked on or went his way. This had nothing to do with voyeurism, nor with exhibitionism. The rules regarding sexuality will probably have been set by men, but they were accepted by all and lived in everyday life. (More on this later.) The population was very thin, so attempts were made to encourage pregnancies so that the people would grow. Pregnant women were given privileged treatment. The rules did not discriminate against women, they too believed that children promoted the strength of the people. Infant mortality was high, many women died in childbirth or in childbed fever. Women rarely lived past 40, so there were many widowers with much younger wives. Sex was enjoyed without restraint and shamelessly open, because it was one of the things available to everyone. Men tried to screw as many women as they could and women were equally interested in sex. Approximately in such a way one must understand the strongly sexualized society and its open, permissive and in all publicly practiced sexuality.

▪︎ ▪︎ ▪︎