Sexualprävention im Mönchtum der Spätantike und des frühen Mittelalters
Organized Chastity: Prevention of Sexuality in the Monasticism of the late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages
The starting point of this article is the invention of the monastic dormitory during the 6th century. This development marks the transition from a monastic concept where every single monk fights an individual battle for his own chastity to the ideal of a monastic community which by the world outside is regarded as a space where the absence of any sexuality is granted. This monastery of new style is therefore suitable for a successful intercession between God and mankind.
In monastic texts from the late antiquity the position of homosexual behaviour is ambivalent. On the one hand it is regarded as just another way in which sexual desire can lead to sinful actions. In a world where all sexual behaviour is regarded as sinful, there is no necessity to differentiate. On the other hand homosexual behaviour formed a special problem because those methods to prevent sexuality which were widely used (separation of the sexes, placing the monastic communities in the lonely desert) do not work for homosexual behaviour. Therefore desert fathers developed a wide repertoire of preventive regulations, which aimed at both a separation of the bodies and a separation of the souls. Friendship was forbidden explicitly and every monk had to submit to a elaborated rule of mutual surveillance. The common dormitory was an important addition to this repertoire and created a perfect control on every monk.
It is an interesting detail that the prohibition of friendships and emotional bindings between monks in late antiquity was abandoned in the Middle Ages, especially in Carolingian monasticism. A possible explanation is that monasteries developed into institutions where monks and nuns had to live from early childhood until death. Monasteries therefore had to offer social bindings which replaced family structures. The fellow monk became your brother, whom you could love like your brother but with whom you were not supposed to have sex, as he was your brother.