chapter  Chapter 8
9 Pages

Man and Wife in the Marriage Bed

WithJean-Louis Flandrin

Equality of rights over one's spouse's body in no way implied the defining of sexual roles, nor even equality in the physical relationship. According to Viguerius, "in the marital act, the man is active and the women passive and therefore the man's is the most noble." Marriage gives each spouse rights over his or her partner's body, but as an instrument for procreation, not for sensual pleasure. However, one place where women were theoretically their husbands' equals: in the marriage bed. Albert the Great appears to have established the privilege of women to be understood without having to go into great detail in the thirteenth century and the privilege appears to have been mentioned since then by the majority of theologians dealing with "marital debt". Slavish devotion to the idea of "marital debt" would theoretically make women equal to men.