By Andrea F. Jones
CSW Update Newsletter (2009)
Introduction: Sex is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when most people consider the Middle Ages, but a conference held in Royce Hall on March 6th and 7th amply demonstrated that there is, indeed, plenty to think about when it comes to medieval sexuality. “Medieval Sexuality 2009,” hosted by the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and sponsored in part by the Ahmanson Foundation and cosponsored by the Center for the Study of Women, brought a host of scholars from many disciplines and several countries together in discussions of topics ranging from marriage to pilgrimage, heresy to confessionals, erotic images to medical theory, and trandgendered bodies to metrosexuality.
Unsurprisingly, then, the conference, organized by James A. Schultz of Germanic Languages and Zrinka Stahuljak of French and Francophone Studies, uncovered a number of intriguing themes and crosscurrents, only one of which was the provocative witness of intimate objects. Pilgrims’ badges, combs, and prayer books all provide us with hints about how medieval people thought, talked, and enacted sex.