Thursday, February 21, 2019

Pious Kings, Promiscuous Priests and Italian Hussies
Gender and Sexuality in Early Medieval Italy
Nicole Lopez-Jantzen, PhD
Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
Friday, March 1, 2019
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 4406
There has been little scholarship directly addressing sexuality in early medieval Italy. Indeed, the main scholar of early medieval Italian sexuality, Ross Balzaretti, notes that the early Middle Ages is often ignored both in histories of western sexuality more generally and by early medievalists despite the early medieval evidence. The majority of sources for early medieval attitudes towards sexuality were written by clerics, and thus are not necessarily representative of women’s views, or those of lay men. An analysis of these sources shows that the idea of pious rulership, which extended over the morality of subjects, began in the late Lombard period and developed further as it was encouraged by the Carolingians. However, Christian and especially monastic norms coexisted with and at times came into conflict with an array of masculine sexual values. Above all, both aristocratic men and many clergymen denied the idea that sexual behavior marked a man’s suitability for public office, although our sources throughout the period equate women’s sexual behavior with their appropriateness as queens, duchesses, and nuns. Instead, aristocratic men placed more value on family strategy, while clergy felt that not having a female partner opened one up to the charge of desiring men. Finally, issues of class and proper hierarchical relationships remained important throughout the early Middle Ages, from Liutprand’s laws prohibiting free women from marrying slaves, to Liudprand of Cremona’s charge that Pope John XII had sex with women from all social classes.