Understanding Priestly Masculinity
This introductory chapter provides an overview of clerical masculinity and priestly identity. Throughout the medieval period, secular and regular clergy struggled with, contested, and negotiated their own ideas of manliness and the demands of the Church. In medieval society, social and cultural trends that focused on marriage, fatherhood, and displays of patriarchal authority shaped how many men understood and reacted to gendered ideals that ultimately affected how they formed their own masculine identity. Clergy received the gendered messages of their environment, and some conformed, modified, or challenged gendered prescriptions in creating their masculinity. Depending on their social status, education, and clerical rank, clergymen expressed their masculine identity in a variety of ways that included—but were not limited to—celibacy, active sexuality, models of spirituality, pious devotion, intellectual prowess, abstinence from manual labor, military skill, and violence.
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