chapter  Chapter 1
9 Pages

Why Study the History of Sexuality?

WithJean-Louis Flandrin

Towards the end of the Middle Ages, young men from the towns frequented prostitutes freely - they were, in fact, plentiful and cheap whereas "honest" young women could not practise any but "solitary pleasures" without great danger to their honour. In the country, there was a different pattern; relations with prostitutes were unquestionably less common; but young men and women of a marriageable age were free to go around together and to engage in quite serious flirtations, in some regions at least. According to ancient Christian morality, sexuality was given to us only for procreation and it is a perversion of God's work to use it for other reasons. Patriarchs rejoiced at an increase in number of either their children or their flocks. No man behaves naturally, in the sense that all human behaviour has been moulded by a culture. All cultures have evolved progressively and have been profoundly marked by past organisations and traumas.