pious man’s hypocrisy exposed him to being raped by woman

medieval representation of lust

Introducing a story about “a certain blessed Paul {Paulo cuidam Beato}” who lived in Pisa, the eminent medieval church official Poggio Bracciolini declared:

The hypocrite is, of all types, the worst that lives.

{ Hypocritarum genus pessimum est omnium qui vivant. }

Paul was one of those destitute persons who sat outside a doorway, yet never asked for alms. Rather than speaking of his need, he waited for others to recognize his need and provide for him. That’s not what made Paul a hypocrite.

Paul sometimes sat outside a widow’s doorway. She always gave him alms in the form of food. The widow developed keen appreciation for Paul’s masculine beauty:

She, from often seeing Paul (he was beautiful), became inflamed with him. Once after giving him food, she asked him to come back the next day, saying that she would take care that he was well fed. He thus became a frequent visitor to her house. She at last asked the man to come in to take his food. He consented to this, and when he had richly stuffed his belly with food and drink, the woman, amorously impatient, embracing and kissing him, asserted that he shouldn’t depart before knowing her intimately.

{ Illa, conspicata saepius virum (erat enim formosus) exarsit in Paulum, ciboque dato rogavit, ut postridie rediret, se curaturam ut bene pranderet. Cum frequens domum mulieris accessisset, illa tandem rogavit hominem ut intus accederet ad sumendum cibum; annuit hic, et cum opipare ventrem cibo potuque farsisset, mulier, libidinis impatiens, virum amplectitur, osculaturque, asserens non inde abiturum, priusquam se cognoscat. }

From a medieval Christian perspective, Paul committed the sin of gluttony. Moreover, he hypocritically pretended to reject the sin of fornication:

He feigned reluctance and pretended to detest the woman’s fervent desiring. The widow pressed upon him lewdly, until he finally gave way to her importuning. “Since,” he said, “you are determined to bring about such a sin, I take God as my witness that all this work is yours. I am far from having any guilt. You therefore take the cursed meat (his shaft was indeed already erect) and use it as you please. I will not even touch it.” Thus he unwillingly submitted to the woman and adhering to abstinence didn’t touch the meat nearest to him. The whole sin he attributed to the woman.

{ Ille reluctanti similis, ac detestans mulieris ferventem cupiditatem, cum illa obscenius instaret, tandem cedens viduae importunitati: “Posteaquam,” inquit, “tantum malum patrare cupis, testor Deum, opus tuum erit: ego procul absum a culpa. Tu ipsa,” inquit, “cape hanc maledictam carnem” (iam enim virga erecta erat), “et ipsamet utere, ut lubet: ego enim eam minime tangam.” Ita invitus mulierem subegit, licet propter abstinentiam non tangeret carnem suam, totum peccatum tribuens mulieri. }

According to modern rape doctrine interpreted with respect for equal justice under law, Paul didn’t affirmatively consent to having sex with the widow. She therefore raped him. But today women raping men often isn’t recognized as real rape. With their more enlightened and humane understanding, medieval jurists would regard the woman as deserving blame. They probably also would attribute some culpability to Paul. His fault wasn’t that he had an erection. He would be blamed because he stuffed himself with meat from the table and treated the meat in his pants hypocritically.

Men, while pretending that they are innocent and unwilling, shouldn’t entice women into having sex. Most men don’t do that. Women shouldn’t do that, either, especially given today’s viciously anti-men judgments of rape.

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The quotes above are from a story preserved by the great medieval church official Poggio Bracciolini. Poggio recorded the story as Facetiae 6, “About a widow lustfully inflamed with a pauper {De vidua accensa libidine cum paupere},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 1, pp. 21-4, my English translation with help from that of id. Poggio attributed this story to a person he met at a party. That person told this story when the subject of hypocrites became the subject of vigorous discussion.

Medieval authorities believed that widows had strong, independent sexuality. Medieval thinkers also closely associated the sins of gluttony and lust.

[image] A demon masturbating to satisfy his lust. From a 13th-century manuscript. Image via Grammaticus VII and Wikimedia Commons.


Poggio. 1879. Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The facetiae or jocose tales of Poggio, now first translated into English with the Latin text. Paris: Isidore Liseux (vol. 1, vol. 2).

One thought on “pious man’s hypocrisy exposed him to being raped by woman”

  1. WASHINGTON – To Alyssa Milano, the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing underscores a point many women have been arguing for nearly 100 years: The country needs an Equal Rights Amendment.
    The actress and activist, who helped launch the #MeToo movement with a tweet this time last year, told USA TODAY that an ERA would have helped Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in an emotional Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month that she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh in high school. Kavanaugh denied those allegations and others and was sworn in Saturday as a Supreme Court justice.
    “When we are not in the Constitution for any protections except for the right to vote, I think that it allows for a perspective of ‘lesser than,’ ” Milano said. “It will just put women on an equal footing in the legal system, particularly in areas where women have historically been treated like second-class citizens, especially in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
    Why would an Equal Rights Amendment be desired? Such legislation would only REDUCE the status of women; not increase it; as Females are the Master Class and Males the Slave Gender.
    Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, Asia Argento and the other founders of MeToo have perpetrated quite an atrocity on the Men of America; and on all people who respect concepts such as Presumption of Innocence and our Majestic Bill of Rights.
    That the three of them are “listened to” by every media outlet is The Greatest Absurdity of Them All…Three Douchebags whose never-ending vendetta against All Men has destroyed countless lives over the last year or so.

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