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Family Roles, Women, And Sex: Views Through Early Modern Europe

1570 words - 7 pages

How society views family roles, women, and sex, speaks to the idea of the time. Late Medieval Europe viewed these topics through the lens of the Catholic Church. These views began to a transition toward the lens of the law through events like the Reformation and voyages to the New World. Advances in science changed these ideas for it opened gateways of intellectual discourse. The French Revolution demonstrates the changes to understanding of family roles, women, and sex had changed; from a marriage which was wholesome where sex was sacred and a woman was to rear children to a marriage which was broken where sex was open to public scrutiny.
In the discourse of family relations, views of women, and sex, it is necessary to begin with the standing that Catholicism held on the issues. The nuclear family model was the ideal of the Catholic Church; for this model provided protection, stability, and business connections. Ozment describes the nuclear family as the “total subjection of the wife to home and husband, of the home to the production of children, and of the children to the will of their parents” (Ozment, pg. 2). This view provides that a woman’s only purpose in life was to marry and bear children; if this was not viable she could enter the convent as not to be a finical burden upon her family. The Catholic Church also had strict views on the topic of sex, which was no sex outside of marriage and only in marriage to procreate. This view was held for the Church believed that “an upright person took pleasure only in God and used the things of the world to God’s glory, fallen men and women were enslaved to their lust and passions, no longer masters of their wills, and eager to worship the world in place of its creator” (Ozment, pg. 10). The Catholic Church’s ideal marriage was one in which the father was head of the household, the mother was to give life to heirs, and the sex had a singular purpose of procreation.
The Reformation introduced new ideas about family roles and marriage. Family roles did not stray from the Catholic views, however marriage encountered changes. The largest was the discussion of divorce; Catholicism was strictly adhered to the idea that marriage was never to be broken, while Protestants saw room for improvement in failing marriages. Grounds for divorce were as such, impotence, desertion, or willful abandonment (Ozment, pg. 90-91). Martin Luther deemed marriage as un-sacramental handed the enforcement of it over the secular government (Ozment, pg. 31). Marriage was slowly becoming a secular idea in society as new marriage laws emerged. The Reformation continued change in society through the view of women. Martin Luther perceived convents as unfit institutions for women were often placed there out of their free will. The Memoir of Catalina de Erauso is a prime example of this, she tells a tale of her young entry into the convent and her escape; she first arrived at the convent at the age of four (Stepto, pg. 3). Catalina...

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