The Puritans Freaking Loved Sex, Okay

So I was looking up some material for a generic “religion and asexuality” masterpost and found this thing (cw: link features… questionable discussion of trans-ness; it talks about trans women as if they are not fully women, and outright refers to hijras as trans women, despite the author having acknowledged non-binary genders in a previous paragraph) which I was not able to fully read the whole way through because I got so frustrated with it.  Aside from the cissexism and binarism, it also featured this gem:

“It is ridiculous and puritanical to be anti-sexual.”

*flips a table* *flips another table* *throws a chair through the window*

I’ve mentioned this before, but by and large the Puritans were not anti-sexual.  And sure, I get that people reach for a word like “puritanical” in order to express the idea of being way too strict, and I’m sure Puritan perspectives on sexual morality would be too strict by most people’s standards, but I’ve seen this tendency to conflate “puritanical” and “sex-hating” way too much — kind of exactly what happens with allusions to supposed Christian mores in general, actually.

It’s as if, in one adjective, people want to express — without putting too fine a point on it — “you’re so sexually conservative and absurd, you’re like a CHRISTIAN” …but, to pack even more of a punch, they instead go a step further and say, “you’re so sexually conservative and absurd, you’re like a CHRISTIAN… from a really long time ago”.

Granted, okay, the Puritans of course had the “no extramarital sex” rule.  But if we’re talking about within marriage, all you have to do is look at their Wikipedia page to see…

Bounds were not set on enjoying sexuality within the bounds of marriage, as a gift from God. In fact, spouses were disciplined if they did not perform their sexual marital duties, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 7 and other biblical passages. While it would seem that women would be most commonly persecuted for such accusations, men were equally (if not more so) expected to fulfill marital responsibilities. Women and men could file for divorce based on this issue alone. In Massachusetts colony, which had some of the most liberal colonial divorce laws, one out of every six divorce petitions was filed on the basis on male impotence.

…these kids are not “anti-sexual”, okay. But hey, let’s not stop there.  Here, have a second opinion.

In fact it was the Puritans who first asserted that sex was not evil, but good…

By comparison Ronald Frye’s thesis that “classical Puritanism . . . inculcated a view of sexual life in marriage as the ‘Crown of all our bliss,’ ‘Founded in Reason, Loyal, Just, and Pure,’” stands in sharp contrast to the views of the majority of Christian writers who preceded the Puritans. For Rogers marriage was the “Preservative of Chastity, the Seminary of the Common-wealth. . . the solace of the living, the ambition of virginity.” Speaking of sexual intimacy in marriage, John Cotton told the bride and groom in a wedding sermon that “there is no stricter or sweeter friendship than conjugal; as it was the first in the world, so it is most natural.”

Puritans were some of White people’s first sex-positive Christians, and you’re going to use them as your sex-negative poster child?

Their sex-positivity exhibited some of the same problems as the version we know today, too, in case you were wondering.   See this excerpt about the Puritans from a Calvinist’s book chapter on marriage:

Marital love must be sexual, so that both marital partners can give themselves fully to each other with joy and exuberance in a healthy relationship marked by fidelity. Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin established this aspect of marriage by abandoning the medieval Roman Catholic attitudes that marriage was inferior to celibacy, that all sexual contact between marital partners was a necessary evil to propagate the human race, and that a procreative act that involved passion was inherently sinful.

[…] Puritan preachers taught that the Roman Catholic view was unbiblical, even satanic. They cited Paul, who said that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1–3). Even the Puritan definitions of marriage implied the conjugal act. For example, Perkins defines marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh.” In contrast with Desiderius Erasmus, who taught that ideal marriage abstained from sexual intercourse, Cotton said in a wedding sermon that those who call for marital abstinence follow the dictates of a blind mind and not those of the Holy Spirit, who says that it is not good that man should be alone.

The Puritans viewed sex within marriage as a gift of God and as an essential, enjoyable part of marriage.

[…] Perkins goes on to say that marital sex is a “due debt” or “due benevolence” (1 Cor. 7:3) that a couple owes to one another.

Okay, one more (p.254):

On the other hand, one of the most famous facts about the Puritans is that they worked to encourage, and even enforce, sexual relations between spouses. So, “If a husband deserted his wife and remained within the jurisdiction of a Puritan government, he was promptly sent back to her.” Over sixty years ago, Edmund Morgan’s research unearthed a case in the First Church of Boston where James Mattock was excommunicated because “he denyed Coniugall fellowship unto his wife for the space of 2 years together upon pretense of taking Revenge upon himself for his abusing of her before marriage.” Either for engaging in sex with the wrong person, or for engaging too little with the right person, sex was regarded as a matter easily beset by sin.

They kicked a guy out of the Church because he wasn’t having enough sex with his wife.  They treated sex as a necessary, inherent part of marriage and celebrated it as something awesome.  Just about everything I’ve been able to dig up on Puritans and their sexual mores tells me stuff like this.

But yeah, tell me more about how it’s just like the Puritans to be anti-sex.

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