Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

The question which arises, then, is whether a policy of sexual repression, imposed by obsessives, is really the policy test adapted to regulate sexual instincts. It is not an academic question, for the attempt to use repressive methods is still favoured by some today. The Middle Ages provides a unique opportunity to observe that policy in action in a chemically pure form.

But whether right or wrong, it is the unremitting application of this standard for many centuries which has formed the pattern of European morality. As Briffault points out,

“the Patristic conceptions which pronounced the extinction of the human race to be preferable to its reproduction by human intercourse would today by most people be accounted morbid and even nauseating aberrations . Sexual morality, as currently conceived, has nothing to do with the insane vilification of sex, with the visionary exaltation of virginity, with the condemnation of marriage as a necessary evil…. yet it is to the ascetic ideal that European standards owe their existence…. The moral standards applied to sex relations are the residual product of that exaltation of ritual purity which pronounced a curse upon sex, stigmatized women as the instrument of Satan and poured scorn upon motherhood. It is in the doctrines of Ambrose and Origen, of Augustine and Jerome, that European sexual morality has its roots.” (23)