Same-sex Possibilities

Helmut Puff

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749919 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Same-sex Possibilities

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  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter considers the world of same-sex intimacy, erotic and otherwise, in the European Middle Ages. It proposes that there was a vibrant culture of same-sex interactions during this period. When, in the 1970s, researchers started to explore the history of homoeroticism in depth, they focused predominantly on prohibitions against and condemnations of sex between men and sex between women. In the meantime, new ways of reading as well as different archives have instigated a change of perspective; we are beginning to take stock of the many same-sex possibilities that existed in medieval times. This chapter retraces this shift in perspective. It also shows how, toward the end of the Middle Ages, the dissemination of the concept of sodomy among Christian believers affected the rich fabric of homosocial life and emotions.

Keywords: sexuality; homoeroticism; same-sex bonding or intimacy/homosociality; love; friendship; law; literature; theology; cross-dressing; concept of sodomy

Article.  8081 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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