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Products for grant FEL-262628-19

Migration and Prostitution in the Medieval Mediterranean World
Susan McDonough, UMBC

Grant details:

When is a slut not a slut? Prostitutes, insults, and honor in the medieval Mediterranean. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: When is a slut not a slut? Prostitutes, insults, and honor in the medieval Mediterranean.
Author: Susan McDonough
Abstract: Medieval people didn’t hesitate to go to court to defend their honor; they took every opportunity to protect themselves from slander and insults. Historians, building on the work of anthropologists of the Mediterranean, have long been attentive to the gendered difference in how medieval people both insulted each other and defended themselves in court. Women were much more likely to suffer slurs based on their perceived lack of sexual honor- they were called “sluts,” or “whores” and defended themselves vigorously against those attacks in courts. But what happened when the women defending themselves against the charge of being a whore were in fact municipal prostitutes? Drawing on the one extant set of criminal court records from the fourteenth century and additional records of fines paid for those guilty of slander and insult, this paper will ask why prostitutes brought the business of the brothel into the purview of the criminal court. What advantages accrued to women considered without sexual honor when they swore to tell the truth in a court of law? What manipulations occurred to restrain bodies marked by assumptions of their unrestrained sexuality within the system of the law? How did the identity of prostitute conflict with that of witness? What motivated the women to contain the violence of the brothel within a legal system that categorized them as outside of the bounds of legal protection? This paper considers how the category of “public woman” intersected and overlapped with that of litigant and witness in a court of law.
Date: 01/05/2020
Primary URL: http://
Conference Name: American Historical Association