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5 Sexual Crimes: Fornication, Adultery and Bestiality

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Chapter Summary

Ruth Mazo Karras emphasises that the image of the Middle Ages as a time when sexuality was completely controlled by a repressive Church is misleading. This chapter analyses what some of the most important sexual crimes reveal about concepts of gender and liability for sexual crimes. The topics dealt with are sexual acts between unmarried people, adultery, and bestiality. The analysis confirms that women held little to no legal liability for fornication; the legal responsibility was solely placed on the man. Women were also not assumed to be perpetrators of bestiality. This was largely defined as a male crime. The laws clearly were more concerned with female adultery; however, the view that men never were punished for adultery is not true. The chapter also examines the way in which a woman's honour was linked to her sexuality and overviews the institution of marriage in Swedish law and practice.

Keywords: adultery; bestiality; fornication; sexual crimes; Swedish law; woman



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