Today we welcome guest blogger Katharine Ashe, who talks about a subject near and dear to the hearts of romance authors--and everyone else--sex. Katharine will give away one copy of her debut Regency historical, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS. Leave a comment for a chance to win. Check back here to see who that lucky person is.
The winner is yadkny. yadkny, please contact Katharine at firstname.lastname@example.org to collect your prize.
Did people in the past treat sex the same way we do?
I am a romance novelist. In my secret identity I am a professor of European history. (I like to think of myself as having a secret identity. It makes me feel like Superman.) Recently I taught a course on sex in the Middle Ages. My students studied chastity, virginity, marriage, adultery, prostitution, masculinity, femininity, and the medieval theology of procreation.
During that semester at a party I met a psychiatrist. Her specialty was therapy for college students. Interesting, I thought. Body image is so important to young people, and in class we’d discussed medieval ideas of the body relating to sex. I mentioned this to my new acquaintance. She cocked her head and replied, "But they didn’t have much sex back then, did they?"I kid you not.
I hear so many fallacies about history I’m mostly inured to them by now. But this one brought me up short. How on earth did she think we got here if people in the past didn’t have much sex? Nonplused, I was! But when I shared the story with my students, they were incensed. They waxed eloquent:
"Chaucer’s Wife of Bath Tale is as bawdy as it gets."
"The fact that numerous medieval guides to women's health directly addressed sexual intercourse means that, yes, they did have ‘much sex back then’."
"The ‘pop-culture’ romanticism of the Middle Ages does not accurately portray real people, rather caricatures."
Ah ha, I thought. Perhaps we are getting to the crux of the matter. And then,
"History suffers from the fatal flaw that it appears to be a universal language. Everyone experiences history, learns history, has history touch their lives in some way - whether they study it in a formal sense or not. For this reason, history suffers."
Hm… Everybody thinks they know history even when they don’t?
If so, maybe they have good reason to misunderstand the past. People in previous eras often did not see the world as we do, particularly in the realm of sexuality. What once defined a man’s masculinity, for instance, does not necessarily define it now. To support this assertion, I offer here three randomly chosen examples drawn from societies typically included in the history of that behemoth called (cue Cecil B. DeMille movie music and Charlton Heston voiceover) WESTERN CIVILIZATION. In other words, examples from our cultural predecessors.
· In ancient Athens it did not make a man appear less virile to have youthful male lovers. It made him more so.
· King Philip of France sought to ruin the wealthy Templar order. Before Philip’s inquisitorial court, Templar knights vehemently denied charges of blasphemy (like spitting upon the cross). Most, however, readily confessed to another accusation: their superiors said they could have carnal relations with each another in order to remain chaste with women. Very few knights admitted to actually doing so, and those under torture. But the suggestion that they were allowed to didn’t seem like a big deal. Despite all, their valor upon the battlefield went unquestioned.
And to bring us somewhat closer to the present,
· A slender gentleman with an elegant leg and Brutus-cut locks, pinching snuff between his thumb and forefinger, would be laughed out of any Hooters in America today. But in 1818 London, that same fellow could make the ladies swoon.
A Regency gentleman’s sense of masculinity was not threatened by crossing his legs, and he did not require biceps like a stevedore to be appealing to women. So— No, of course— Notions of masculinity, femininity, sex, and the kitchen sink were not the same "back then" as they are today. Not by any means.
Humans are…human, and frankly always have been. Medieval people had sex. Like us, they had lots of it. They also danced, sang, ate, fought, and prayed. Like us. Likewise, gentlemen in the Regency read, drank, lied, loved, cried, played sports, and rescued helpless victims. Like men still do today.
And they also had sex. Lots of it.
What is the funniest, most unusual or shocking account of historical sex you’ve heard or read? One randomly chosen commenter today will win a signed copy of my debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, in which my indisputably masculine Regency hero does not once cross his legs, but does however at one point buff his fingernails against the lapel of his exquisitely tailored coat.
SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS
When pirates storm Lord Steven Ashford’s ship upon the high seas, it brings him closer than ever to the nefarious criminal he seeks to ruin. Only one seductive detail threatens his victory: the scandalous beauty imprisoned with him, Lady Valerie Monroe. Temptation has never been so intoxicating or so forbidden, for Steven is disguised as a French priest. If they make it off the ship alive, to protect her from his enemies, he must never see her again…
An Undeniable Love
Back in England, and under the ton’s scrutiny for a reckless past she hasn’t escaped, Valerie dreams of the breathtaking "man of the cloth" with whom she shared her greatest adventure. Then he reappears in society under his true identity, Viscount Ashford, but despite the danger their consuming passion cannot be denied. Now standing in the way of their desire are Valerie’s wounded heart, Steven’s lone destiny, and a villain that will stop at nothing to crush them both.
BIO – Katharine Ashe