Medieval erectile dysfunction, or failed barn sex (!)

Disclaimer: At the risk of offending some readers who may suffer from this condition, I am still going to post this article. It’s an account of how people used to deal with the very private, or not so private, matters of bedroom challenges. Proceed with caution. Keep your comments on topic and cordial – this is a family blog. (Just sayin’) 😛

Do you remember the post How to have sex with your husband 1960s style? History is quite fascinating, isn’t it…and in hindsight, quite humorous. 🙂

I came across another interesting historical read on a platform called narratively called The Distinguished Medieval Penis Investigators.


The opening paragraph beings like this:

In the year 1370, Tedia Lambhird filed for divorce from John Saundirson, claiming that her husband was impotent. Next, she had to prove it. Fortunately for Tedia, she had eyewitnesses.

To paraphrase:

The church court needed witnesses because everyone knew women weren’t reliable and prone to tell fibs. 🙄

So, the church court required eye witnesses. Fortunately, there were some. One key witness, Thomas (son of Stephen) (a neighbour?) testified he had seen the couple in a barn “applying themselves with zeal to the work of carnal intercourse”. Then there was John’s brother who witnessed the failed sexual encounter and…get this…stroked John’s penis with his hand to see if he could help.

So poor John not only had failed barn sex with is wife before an audience, he also received ineffective manual stimulation on his flaccid penis from his own brother. As a result, Tedia won her case and was granted her divorce.


Today, we know that Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a real condition. Luckily, modern medicine invented the little blue pill and people are happily having sex again despite ED. (Right? I don’t know…)

The article recounts several other examples with a varied selection of arguments, giving us a glimpse into the minds of the medieval peeps who suffered from the effects of ED. But to think that filing for divorce due to impotence is a medieval problem would be incorrect; apparently this is still a clause in divorce law in several states in America. (I am quoting the article and didn’t fact check this, but they named Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia.)

Anyway, if you suffer from ED or any other sexual problem, there is help out there. Call your doctor or a help line or surf the internet for reputable websites.

In the meanwhile, this sort of history lesson is much more fun to read about than what I used to be, um, exposed to in my highschool textbooks.


25 thoughts on “Medieval erectile dysfunction, or failed barn sex (!)

  1. Well that was far more interesting than the drawings of a flayed penis I was subjected a few years back at my job, one of our clients was The National Library of Medicine, a book collection of sexual diseases and such from the early 1900’s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my! What must the cows, horses and whatever else that hangs out in the barn thought! I think the poor guy just didn’t like having all of those eyes on him while he was trying to perform. Which brings to mind, yesterday, David and I were watching a TV show set in the 1940’s and one of the characters was outside a club raving about the strip show going on inside. He said, “This show’s been known to raise the dead.” That’s mighty high praise. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge! Mona

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t recall ANY advice, hints, or anything like that from Sex Ed. I don’t think we even had a textbook. There were plastic models of the male and female reproductive organs, like you’d see in a doctor’s exam room, but all we got was the basics on how sperm fertilizes an egg.

    I feel kinda cheated now. 😒

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t read this type of history much but I do read biographies on occasion and I have learned that school history classes leaves out all the sass and snark. Those classes put people on pedestals they may not deserve. I like the biographies – they show that even geniuses are human.


    1. The best history book I ever read was one that featured the culinary challenges of immigrants. How they had to not only build a place to live but feed themselves through all the seasons. It gave glimpses into lifestyles that resonate more to us now than all the dates and places I was forced to memorize (and promptly forgot).

      I enjoy biographies as well. Much more intriguing and memory-worthy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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