“A Medievalist Schools Dan on Medieval Attitudes Toward Sex”

“I’m not saying that the Middle Ages was a great period of freedom (sexual or otherwise), but the sexual culture of 12th-century France, Iraq, Jerusalem, or Minsk did not involve the degree of self-loathing brought about by modern approaches to sexuality. Modern sexual purity has become a marker of faith, which it wasn’t in the Middle Ages…
The Middle Eastern boyfriend wasn’t taught a medieval version of his faith, and radical religion in the West isn’t a retreat into the past — it is a very modern way of conceiving identity. Even something like ISIS is really just interested in the medieval borders of their caliphate; their ideology developed out of 18th- and 19th-century anticolonial sentiment, and much ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Judaism and evangelical Christianity developed at the same time…
The reason why this matters (beyond medievalists just being like, OMG no one gets us) is that the common response in the West to religious radicalism is to urge enlightenment, and to believe that enlightenment is a progressive narrative that is ever more inclusive. But these religions are responses to enlightenment…
Radical religion is doing something similar: It offers a social identity to those excluded (or who feel excluded) from the dominant system of Western enlightenment capitalism. It is a modern response to a modern problem, and by making it seem like some medieval holdover, we cover up the way in which our social power produces the conditions for this kind of identity, and make violence appear as the only response for these recalcitrant “holdouts.””

Oh, this was so interesting.

Related: getting past constantly comparing our attitude on sex to our perceptions of the middle ages: “We Need a New Orientation to Sex

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