The history of marriage can reveal some very interesting facts.
In 16th Century France for example, men who were not able to please their wives in bed were summoned before the Court.
This is because one of the few reasons the Church would allow a woman a Divorce was if their Husband could not perform sexually to meet her expectations. It was therefore not uncommon for disgruntled women to charge their Husbands with “injurious non-consummation” before ecclesiastical courts (religious courts).
The tradition dates back to the 14th Century when it was believed that the prime aim of marriage was procreation. Statistics are vague but by the 1500s, French Historian, Pierre Darmon, says that the Courts were faced with “a tidal wave of accusations”.
By the 16th Century, the onus fell upon men to disprove such allegations by demonstrating their ability to perform in front of expert teams of priests, surgeons and midwives. These learned observers would carefully examine the man’s equipment to reach an opinion on its “elastic tension” and “natural motion” before demanding “proof of ejaculation”. Many men however, found that their powers would fade on public examination.
If the man were unable to perform to the satisfaction of the experts then the Church would order that the marriage be annulled. A man’s only form of recourse was Trial by Congress where he would be asked to have sex with his Wife before the team of experts in order to prove that he could perform.
The married couple would be closely examined by the Court to ensure they were not concealing any devices, were watched during the act and further examined afterwards.
The women who had the money to start an impotence trial were almost always from the aristocracy, so it is not surprising that each new charge provoked a salacious scandal that was circulated by Parisian pamphleteers – the predecessors of the modern tabloid press – to a bemused public.
Times have certainly changed since medieval times!