chapter  6
32 Pages

“Access Deni’d”: The Virgin in the Garden

Prelapsarian sexuality was a difficult and delicate topic. Following the lead apparently supplied by St Paul, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor. VII.1),1 the vast majority of patristic authorities had felt sex to be virtually synonymous with sin; even married Christians were tainted by sexual activity.2 Is sex itself sin, and, if so, does that mean there was no sex before the Fall? Was sex the real cause of the Fall, under the phallic symbolism of the tempting snake? Or, was there paradisal sex in Eden, far different from its fallen counterpart? Milton boldly confronts such questions, working a plausible, if often elliptic, human sexuality into his Eden, before, during and after the Fall. Eve is the point of convergence for opposing views of sexuality in Eden: on her seduction, benign by Adam and malign by Satan, rests the future of mankind.