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The Manifestation of Female Sexuality in the Literature of Medieval Times

The female sexuality in the medieval times was presented in quite a different way from the relevant matter in the modern world. Probably the most astonishing is the young age when girls’ maturity is considered to be the most vivid. In fact, three out of four literature works that belong to the Middle Ages reveal that the breakthrough age of woman’s sexuality and beauty is the 12th birthday. For example, the bishop Gregory in A Letter on the Life of Saint Macrina depicts, “she attained her twelfth year, the age in which the bloom of youth starts to radiate more than at any other time” (Gregory 2).

Nevertheless, it is important to point to the shifts during puberty. For instance, the story of Thecla, Mary and Macrina claims that 12-years-old females are adults and, thus, can get married and bear children. Moreover, they are free to make other important life decisions. For instance, as it happened with Macrina, who decided to stay with her mother and keep life-long solitarily instead of creating a family of her own. Macrina argued that it was “improper not to keep faith with a husband who was away on a journey” while implying to the deceased man who was supposed to become her husband (Gregory 3). Another example is Mary’s decision to leave her parents at the age of 12 and become a prostitute. As a work of literature, A Life of St. Mary of Egypt depicts: “Mary left her parents’ home at the age of twelve and went to the cultural and commercial center of Alexandria, where she lived as a prostitute for more than seventeen years” (Kouli 67).

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On the contrary, the fourth story The Acts of the Christian Martyrs states that young woman was nearly a married female of 22 years old and recently had her first child (Musurillo 109). The given difference reveals the idea that the age of maturity in the medieval community was shifted almost for 10 years.

What is more, it is clearly visible that female sexuality was meant to be expressed with the help of motherhood. In the times of the Middle Ages it was common to have many children, and the number of healthy offspring that manage to survive all the potential hardships and life threats seems to be the distinguishing factor of the wife’s sexuality. In other words, the more children a woman had, the more appealing she was in the eyes of the medieval society. The given particularity partially has similar topicality in the contemporary world; however, there are the well-seen changes in the individuals’ consciousness regarding the definition of females’ sexuality. In particular, the image of a pregnant, breastfeeding or a woman with small children, presented as a caregiver, supporter and educator is associated with the true beauty. That is why it is a rather appealing and desirable thing for the modern females to achieve and for modern males to obtain. Nonetheless, the number of children does not define the level of sexuality anymore since, for instance, it is not important whether a woman has one child or five, it seems to be equally womanish and magnificent. More than that, even if a female does not have any children up to her chair days, she is still considered to be sexually appealing.

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Considering the point, it is necessary to detect the importance of family duties and common women’s desire to become a mother in the Middle Ages. The chosen urge serves to express wife’s femininity and appeal and, similarly, allows one to maintain an essential social role. Given the fact, the tendency of the female solidarity, which became common in the medieval society, comes as a wondering and contradicting phenomenon. For example, the first peculiarity of the woman’s solitude is that despite having the opposite nature, similarly to the motherhood, they are sexually appealing. That is why the works of literature of those times reveal the stories of strong and single women like Mary, Macrina, Thecla, Felicitas and Perpetua. The other particularity is that the given females are single because they prefer the life of the religious prophets to the benefits of the traditional life of mothers and wives. Keeping in mind the given distinguishing feature, it is possible that these women display rebellious nature, challenging the order of their communities. Consequently, they are not afraid to be excluded from the society, and they are not scared of the likelihood to be emotionally isolated and even punished. More than that, two of them, Perpetua and Thecla, were sentenced to the death penalty, but, nevertheless, it neither reduced their braveness nor eliminated their faith. Given the fact, such readiness to scarify the lives while defending their religious believes seems to be an exaggerated reaction towards social unfairness even if the last was obvious to the females.

What is even more fascinating is that overwhelming spirituality of Macrina, Thecla, Perpetua, Felicitas and Mary is directly connected with their sexuality. Perhaps, the authors of the texts intended to link the prettiness and invincibility of one’s soul to the beauty and strength of the human’s body. For example, The Acts of Thecla describes that Thecla “became an enormously important saint and object of devotion, especially for women, down through the Middle Ages” (“The Acts of Thecla” 113). At the first sight, the chosen idea seems to be ambiguous because it is not common to point to the interrelation of faith and sexual appeal. On the other hand, in terms of inner power and beauty, which are reflected by the external physical features, the notion of such connection seems to be natural and reasonable.

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In conclusion, the manifestation of females’ sexuality in the medieval times is quite unique and, partially, remains topical in the contemporary world. For instance, there is a clearly visible important role of the motherhood, which is often presented as a distinguishing factor of one’s sexuality. Moreover, in contrast to the traditional women’s social role, there is female solitude as another contradicting but contributing factor of sexual appeal.

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