Historisk tidskrift 131:2 • 2011
Innehåll (Contents) 2011:2
Den politiska kärleken. Homosocialt begär och heteronormativa
praktiker under svensk medeltid
Henric Bagerius & Christine Ekholst
Political love: homosocial desire and heteronormative practices
in medieval Sweden
This article discusses the character of political relationships
in the Middle Ages and shows the usefulness of gender and queer
theory for analyzing political history. Recent research has expanded
on the deeply personal and emotional character of political relations
and has depicted them as based on friendship. We argue that the
term male homosociality is a more accurate description because
it emphasizes that women tended to be excluded from these male
relationships. Women were used to bind men together, for example
by marriage, but their own political influence was clearly limited.
In fact, in order for the homosocial relationships to function
women needed to be subordinated.
Strong emotions such as love
and jealousy were common between men of power. This homosocial
desire needed to be kept in check; women were therefore essential
as mediators. Having a woman present, preferably as a wife, made
it possible to avoid accusations of sodomy and allowed men to
show signs of affection more openly. The fear of sodomitical
sin was, however, always present in late medieval society. Even
having a wife could not always save a king from being suspected
of same-sex sexual activities.
Suspicions of sodomy put the entire
political system in jeopardy: by letting himself be seduced by
another man the king showed an effeminate side that made him
incapable of reigning. Furthermore, since heterosexual intercourse
was seen as a symbol of the correct gender order, if the king
refused to have sex with his wife it was believed to create chaos.
The queen subsequently would become power hungry and too independent.
In this article we argue that medieval political relationships
were characterized by homosocial desire and heteronormative practices.
The homosocial desire formed the relationship between men of
power and bound them together, but the system was structured
on compulsory heteronormative practices symbolized primarily
by the institution of marriage.
Sweden, Middle Ages, political history, rulership, gender, homosocial
desire, heteronormative practices, queer theory, Erikskrönikan,
Libellus de Magno Erici rege