Sex Among the Dead!
As the plague rolled through Europe killing almost half the population of England, the people of Europe dealt with this grave situation in a variety of different ways. As one would imagine fear, panic and desperation were common reactions to the endless sickness and death that wracked the cities and towns on an hourly basis. However, there were thousands who had the attitude of, “If this is the end, I am going to a party like its 1399!” and one of the vices they indulged in was extreme debauchery.
That’s right! Amongst all those corpses (sometimes literally) people were having crazy sex, including cemetery orgies. Here we shed a light on some of the insane sex going on in those dark times!
Disease and dying were a daily occurrence during the time of the Plague and some decided to show their "revulsion toward death and the dead" by celebrating life... with cemetery orgies!” It was a way to cope with the horror surrounding them. The situation got so bad at Avignon Cemetery in France that the papal had to make a decree that "fornicators and adulterers" will be excommunicated for committing "unseemly acts" on the graves. Prostitutes also began using the cemeteries as a place to solicit customers.
In addition to sexual activity, graveyard rebels also dared to dance, fight, throw dice, and partake in other irreverent activities among the graves.
BE WARNED! LIMIT SEXUAL ACTIVITY!
The medical community of the time believed that too much sexual activity "overheated the body," and according to Joseph Patrick Byrne's The Black Death, this allowed "bad air" to enter the body through one's pores, increasing the chances of catching the plague.
In fact, a German physician even advised that "all physical exertions and emotions of the mind," including running, jumping, jealousy, and "licentiousness" should be totally avoided, lest you catch the dreaded Black Death.
PROSTITUTION WAS INSTITUTIONALIZED
The issue of prostitution was a tricky one. Some officials wanted them banned from the cities, thinking their “business” was actually helping to spread the plague, while others turned a blind eye allowing the sex-for-pay industry to thrive because of the labor shortage – prostitutes were literally dying off.
DID SEXUAL IMMORALITY SPREAD THE PLAGUE?
Many believed that immoral activity was at the root of the Black Plague and at the time adopted the "Christian belief that sin angered God, who expressed his divine wrath through plague”. This belief helped usher in what were once older "moral laws" to become hard and fast legal laws. These laws were deemed "sanitary" legislation and focused on the sodomy and prostitution “problem”.
Some cities in Italy threw the prostitutes out of the city and even when the Black Death had passed they were still forbidden to work on the streets, however brothels were acceptable.
HOMOSEXUALITY WAS ALIVE AND “WELL”
Although research shows that homosexuality was a "vital urban subculture" it was definitely kept on the down low. Just twenty years before the Black Death, King Edward II was murdered; many believe because he was suspected of being gay. So, the intolerance of homosexuality and the belief that sodomy helped spread the plague kept the gay community behind shuttered windows.
THE RISE OF THE 'PSEUDO-FLAGELLANTS'
Pseudo-Flagellants existed before the plague, but they had an increase in popularity when the plague rolled in. These "professional self-torturers" would visit towns whipping themselves for a fee "to bring God's favor upon a community hoping to avert the bubonic plague." The church frowned on this activity, but the “pseudo-flagellants” continued on, in fact, they upped their repertoire to include performing "unusual sexual acts in public" for a fee.
INCEST ON THE RISE
The plague "destroyed between one-third and one-half" of the population, making exogamy (marrying only outside the clan or community) "improbable." The shift in population was so severe that the problem, “wasn't keeping cousins from marrying, but instead the opposite: "finding living cousins with whom one might preserve the patrimony"!
FORNICATION FINES INCREASED
Just the thought that there were fines for fornication is bizarre to think of in this day and age. However, they were a fact of life back then and although fines for other indiscretions decreased during the Black Plague, the fines for fornication were increased. This has been interpreted as a way to collect punitive damages – sex causing the spread of the plague and subsequent deaths.