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To have authority over a body : 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 and the conjugal debt

By Lisa Kristin. Gilbert


Commentaries on the medieval notion of the "conjugal debt" have often emphasized its reciprocal nature, but its inequality becomes apparent when re-embedded into its theological, medical, and legal contexts. By tracing the theology that accompanied 1 Cor 7:3-4 through selected theologians, I will demonstrate that Paul's words did not function in equivalent ways for both spouses. By examining medieval medical understandings of human physiology, I will ask what it means to 'have authority over a body' when the bodies themselves are not equal. Finally, by demonstrating ways in which consent and coercion blurred together in twelfth-century legal debates, I will ask how meaningful it is to grant spouses equal rights to sex when their marriage may have been coerced. The topic will serve as a broader meditation on what it means to 'have authority over a body' and to conceive of marital sexuality as a system of debt

Topics: Marriage law -- Europe -- History., Consent (Law) -- Europe -- History., Sex customs -- Europe -- History.
Publisher: McGill University
Year: 2007
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Provided by: eScholarship@McGill
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