Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
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Historisk tidskrift 129:3 • 2009

Innehåll (Contents) 2009:3

Uppsatser (Articles)

Hävdande och hustrubröst. Sexualitet, kropp och identitet i det tidigmoderna Sverige

Malin Lennartsson

Fulltext (pdf)


Carnal knowledge: Sexuality, body and identity in early modern Sweden

In early modern Sweden men were seen as responsible for sexual activity. This is due both to the fact that women were subordinated and that sexuality was defi- ned as penetration, as something a man did to a woman (or sometimes to a beast or another man). Men seldom accused women of having seduced them and when they did the courts did not consider the accusation as men were supposed to be able to control themselves. Hence, until the end of the seventeenth century women were considered victims when it came to premarital relationships such as fornication. But a woman should react properly to a sexual invitation and only answer it if she had good reasons to believe it would lead to marriage. If she had misjudged the situation she was informally punished with derogatory names. Another way of controlling women was through the idea that sexual intercourse left traces on their bodies, especially their breasts. An examination of the woman’s body, and not only of the man’s, was therefore something that could take place when a wife accused her husband of being impotent. In that case the marriage was dissolved; as married men and women had the right to each other’s bodies. Sexuality in early modern Sweden was not associated with ideas about the inner self of people, their longings and desires. It was associated with the ability to behave properly and responsibly in a world where sexual intercourse was related to impregnation and was defined in the relationship with other people.


early modern, identity, sexuality, body, law