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Christianity And Prostitution In The Middle Ages

5253 words - 21 pages

Christianity and Prostitution in the Middle Ages

21st century Americans live with the hopes of being a tolerant society. Modern American culture attempts to teach diversity and acceptance. However there is uncertainty about subjects associated with immoral behavior and sexuality. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of prostitution as a legal institution. Hence, it remains illegal throughout the United States in all but a few counties in one state, Nevada. People have questioned the moral and legal issues of this career choice throughout much of written history, especially since the beginnings of Judeo-Christianity.

Many modern views stem from the development of Christianity and its articulation in the Middle Ages. Throughout the Middle Ages, Christians, priests, scholars, and civil governments were all trying to understand where and even if prostitution fit into society. Prostitution during the Middle Ages was seen by the church as immoral, but was tolerated “…to protect respectable townswomen from seduction and even rape.” [1] It was a legal institution in most of Europe during the Middle Ages and was in obvious demand. Most attempts to abolish prostitution failed. Prostitutes were protected by laws and were safer in brothels than on the streets. They were protected in brothels, but were also regulated.

Compared to modern views on prostitution people during the Middle Ages had a more rational outlook. By this I mean that the medieval period was more consistent when it came to a belief system that corresponded to actual practice. It is very clear that prostitution was viewed as immoral and wrong but also necessary. It was because of this understanding of human nature that logic rather than morals dominated the decision making in regards to prostitution as a legal institution.

I will begin by talking about the philosophy of medieval Europe and then relate that to their actual practice. This will show the consistency between philosophy and practice. Then a comparison between philosophy and practice within the contemporary United States will be made, which unlike the medieval period do not match up. When philosophy and practice do not match, hypocrisy follows.

In the later medieval period, after about 1000, the church had a larger audience than any government of the Middle Ages. It attempted to understand human behavior and explain disorder by placing blame on different aspects of society that did not follow its moral norm. So to understand government one must understand the views of the church, since governments adopted much of what church figures preached.

Early on, from its beginning until about 1000, Christianity was not yet organized and was unable to hold a clear view on all aspects of the road to salvation. Without set rules, it was open to individual communities, each with its own bishop, to decide what was appropriate. Views varied and were easily confused. Interpretations of the...

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