Things You Didn't Know About Viking Sex Life
Have you ever found yourself wondering how Vikings had a good time? Well, this is what it was really like to have a Viking sex life.
There are some things that your history teachers just don’t tell you—and it’s usually all the interesting bits… such as what sex as a Viking was really like. Sure, we know about their burial rituals and their battle tactics, but Vikings were human beings too, so surely they must have needed to settle down to the age old act of procreation from time to time.
Which begs the question, what exactly did Viking sex life involve, and how did it compare to our modern world? Well, today we’re going to investigate everything you ever wanted to know about having sex as a Viking.
Bad Sex Life? Grounds for Divorce!
Women weren’t expected to simply wait it out until death do us part if their husband was bad at sex; instead, this was considered a perfectly reasonable motive for divorce. In fact, if a Viking woman found that she wasn’t sexually compatible with her man in a number of ways—for instance, because he liked cross-dressing, or was gay—she could get a divorce and claim back her dowry. Apparently, when one woman took advantage of this law she claimed that “he is not able to consummate our marriage so I may enjoy him,” proving that sex was as important for the ladies as it was for the men.
There are also some recorded cases of domestic violence as a cause for divorce, although sadly this wasn’t always seen as a good enough reason. Still, while we often think of divorce rights for women as a relatively recent development, Viking ladies were clearly ahead of the game, and having a satisfactory Viking sex life was an important part of life!
Marriage was an Expected Part of Viking Culture
While they may have been progressive when it came to divorce, they weren’t so accepting of the bachelor lifestyle back in Viking times. Whether they were accused of “fleeing the vagina” or “fleeing the penis,” Vikings of both genders were expected to get married, or be shunned by their society. These were also the pejorative phrases given to anybody who left their husband or wife to be jilted at the altar.
Perhaps surprisingly, this didn’t mean that the homosexual lifestyle was vilified, but rather that Vikings were expected to get married, produce a new generation of bloodthirsty Vikings, and satisfy any other sexual desires beyond the marital bed. This means that, while Vikings were hardly the poster children for gay rights and liberties, they were a lot more accepting of homosexuality than a lot of other cultures. Speaking of which…
Viking Attitudes Towards Homosexuality Were Complicated
The fact that they could be accepting of certain aspects of homosexuality, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t also be prejudiced towards gay people—especially men. Essentially, it all came down to the position taken during the sexual act itself. Men were free to penetrate others of any gender as it was seen as an act of power and status, however a man who enjoyed being penetrated was considered to be betraying Viking values by showing what they thought of as a sign of weakness. In fact, being penetrated by another man was actually outlawed, and those who were caught in the act were referred to with the insult "Ergi."
Similarly, straight sex as a Viking was considered essential for reproduction, so any homosexuality was expected to be in addition to, rather than instead of, marriage to a Viking woman. Of course, we already know that gay affairs could be grounds for divorce—but that didn’t stop a lot of Viking men from getting married while also seeking a gay partner. And what about lesbian women? Well, there is very little on record to suggest that Vikings had any particular attitudes towards a lesbian Viking sex life, however just like their male counterparts, marriage had to come first.
Vikings Had Nearly as Many Terms for Sex as We Do
If there’s one thing that makes the Viking sexual attitudes a little more like ours, then it is probably their preference for slang terms over straight-talking. It might be surprising to imagine a hulking Viking turning red in the face at the thought of discussing the act of love-making, but apparently that was absolutely the case, and to make up for their embarrassment they came up with a whole bunch of euphemisms to make communicating that little bit easier.
This included phrases such as “turning towards” their partner, “crowding together in bed” or, rather wonderfully “romping on her belly”—among a whole host of other similar terms. Just like in so many of our modern phrases, the act itself was implied but left unsaid. They also spoke of “illicit love visits,” a somewhat charming phrase that applied to couples who got married without the consent of their families.
Adultery was Common… But it Was Also a Crime
Although many Vikings were all too happy to stray from their partner and seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, it wasn’t exactly an accepted part of Viking culture. In fact, deciding to have extramarital sex as a Viking could even be considered a crime, depending on who was involved.
Women who committed adultery could expect to be divorced, given a hefty fine, or even murdered by their husband without him facing any consequences. However, although Viking women could divorce their man if he refused to have sex for three years in a row, they were given no such rights when faced with cheating. Instead, male Vikings could only be punished if they went to bed with another man’s wife, suggesting that women certainly weren’t always in control of their own married life.
Vikings Had Some Pretty Unusual Courting Rituals
How do you let the object of your affections know that you’re interested? Invite them out for a coffee or engage in some late night sexting? Well, Vikings had no such luxuries—so instead they would use what we might consider a pretty convoluted process to kick-start a romantic relationship.
This included, for the men, picking purple flowers and then slapping them around the face of a woman they liked (try it if you want lads, but we’re not sure we fancy your chances). For the women, it meant the time-consuming task of making a shirt for any man that they liked, just to let him know that they were interested. Interestingly, Vikings also had their own set of beauty standards which included pale arms, and long shiny hair—and a lot of Vikings were precursors to the modern "meterosexual" man, taking great pride in their appearances and engaging in a lot of personal grooming.
Of course, these strange rituals seem a little less surprising when you consider that, a lot of the time…
Vikings Were Getting Married Young
With an average life expectancy of just 40 years, a Viking sex life started far younger than we would consider moral or acceptable—with many girls getting married at only twelve years of age. They were then expected to conform to a specific set of gender roles, which saw them minding the house and cooking dinner for their warrior men. So, although Viking women were given freedom in certain aspects of life, including the right to inherit property—which certainly wasn’t common for women at the time—they were far from being liberated in every aspect of their life.
While a lot of these practices might seem strange or even shocking to our modern minds, it’s just as surprising to see some of the more modern ideas that defined the art of the Viking sex life. As in many older cultures, it certainly seems that straight men came out on top (literally, a lot of the time), but in some respects attitudes towards women and gay people were more advanced than in many other societies of the time.
From embarrassment and unlikely first dates to having to keep your sexuality hidden if you didn’t conform to the Viking norms, we don’t have too much desire to go back in time and find ourselves a dashing Viking mate. That said, it’s reassuring to learn that even the so-called Viking Brutes had a softer side, especially when it came to talking about their sexual appetites.
Do you think you’d enjoy getting together with a Viking mate? At least you could be sure that if you’re partner wasn’t all that interested in consummating with you, you’d have grounds to divorce them and try again with somebody else. It seems that a Viking sex life could be a little contradictory and maybe even confusing at times, but one things for sure—this is a universal act that can help us learn about different cultures from throughout the ages.
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