Abstract: This paper is a semantic and social study of marital sexuality in Anglo-Saxon England. By contextualizing the sexual vocabulary of the Old English penitentials it demonstrates that marriage was sexualized both linguistically and culturally. The essay also reveals how marriage intersected with social expectations that related to gender and procreation. The pastoral-judicial context of the penitentials is explored and, as a consequence, the argument is made that the repeated invoking by priests of penitential codes reinforced a binding, discursive authority on matters of sexuality.
Keywords: adultery, bigamy, gender, impotence, lawful sexual union, marriage, penitentials, procreation, sex, sexuality, unlawful sexual union.