Puritan Sexuality In The 17th Century

1830 Words8 Pages
Ceara Cavalieri

Puritan Sexuality in the 17th Century

The typical stereotype of a Puritan is widely described as religious extremists whom held strong beliefs against sexual pleasure in its entirety, causing them to be sexually oppressed. Although there have been instances of deviancy being punished for sexual acts, for the most part these acts received lighter sentencing than their laws were said to uphold. This is due to the Puritan ideology that man is flawed and deserves forgiveness. Puritan sexuality was extremely complex—more than many realize. Puritans based their sexual moral code on the belief that sex was purely a tool within marriage for reproduction and moral judgment instead
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When looking at Puritan New England’s laws vs. punishments, records show that Puritans were slightly tolerant when dealing with the crime of sodomy. Kimberely Chehardy, lawyer and author of “Wickedness Breaks Forth”, a journal that observes deviant sexual acts that Puritans were criminalized for, stated that “While the laws stated death for the crimes of sodomy and bestiality, it was hardly ever applied. The first recorded case that implies sodomy was in 1628 and no charges were brought against the perpetrators. By the end of the colonial era, there were only two executions in nineteen cases of sodomy.”2 For example, in 1642 a case took place involving Edward Michell and Edward Preston, whom were two puritan men convicted for committing sodomy. During the trial, it was also found that Preston was planning to commit Sodomy with another puritan man and that Michell had been fornicating with a woman as well. The woman, known as Lydia Hatch, was also having an affair with her brother. The law stated that the death penalty would be applied, but it was not. Instead, they were all publicly whipped for their actions. Although they were punished for their actions, the punishment did not reach the extent to which Puritan law expressed that it…show more content…
For example, the case of Sarah Lepingwell, who was brought into court for having an illegimate child, and testified that her Master’s brother raped her. She specifically stated, “at the last I arose and did lite his pip and cam and lay doune one my one bead and smoaked about half the pip and siting vp in my bead to guie him his pip my bead being a trundell bead at the sid of his bead he reached beyond the pip and Cauth me, by the wrist and pulled me on the side of his bead but I biding him let me go he bid me hold my peas the folks wold here me and if it be replyed come why did you not call out I Ansar I was posesed with fear of my master least my master should think I did it only to bring a scandall on his brother and thinking thay wold all beare witness against me but the thing is true that he did begete me with child at that tim and the Child is Thomas Hauses and noe mans but his.” 1 Sarah was extremely scared and intimidated by her master’s brother, and records show that there were many incidents in which servants were victims of sexual abuse by their masters. Morgan stated, “They had no misconceptions as to the capacity of human beings to obey such laws. Although the laws were commands of God, it was only natural- since the fall of Adam- for human beings to break them.” 1 The puritans in fact took part in many illicit sexual acts and were rarely
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