(Author of The Very Secret Sex Lives Of Medieval Women) Rosalie Gilbert tells of a brave medieval woman who stood up to her sexual assaulter.
While this isn’t an exclusively male issue, it’s an issue that many modern women today are aware of, either through media or in a very confronting and personal way.
He’s a celebrity. He’s a devoted husband. He’s famous. He’s a good guy.
Only he’s not, really.
In the medieval world, where it was a bold move for a woman to face a jury against an offender in the first place, verdicts like this one must have made it harder and harder for women with grievances of a sexual nature to come forward.
This isn’t true of all court cases against medieval women, but it certainly was the outcome for Eleanor de Merton from London in the 14th century.
The most unfair and heartbreaking of all, is that no one denied that the events had happened. He was guilty. He just got let off because he’d been incredibly brave in battle and was highly thought of.
In this case, justice wasn’t so much blind, as looking the other way for a bit.
We know almost nothing about this women, Eleanor, or the circumstances of her situation, but what we do know is that she was brave and she tried to stand up for herself when she would have known her chances of success were slim.
Eleanor de Merton. She stood up and tried anyway.
An Inside Look at Women & Sex in Medieval Times
An inside look at sexual practices in medieval times. Were medieval women slaves to their husband’s desires, jealously secured in a chastity belt in his absence? Was sex a duty or could it be a pleasure? Did a woman have a say about her own female sexuality, body, and who did or didn’t get up close and personal with it? No. And yes. It’s complicated.
Romance, courtship, and behind closed doors. The intimate lives of medieval women were as complex as for modern women. They loved and lost, hoped and schemed, were lifted up and cast down. They were hopeful and lovelorn. Some had it forced upon them, others made aphrodisiacs and dressed for success. Some were chaste and some were lusty. Having sex was complicated. Not having sex, was even more so.