Sex, violence, and the law in John Gower's Confessio Amantis
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Sexual relationships between men and women in the Middle Ages were fraught with problematical theological, social, and legalistic implications throughout the Middle Ages. This paper examines John Gower’s use of implied same-sex physical relationships in the Confessio Amantis in order to normalize and diminish the immorality of relationships between men and women. I suggest that Genius shows how moral gradations of desire, as imagined in penitential manuals and both natural and secular laws, open up a space where society can, if not permit, at least sanction and normalize transgressive heterosexual desires, which are essentially natural, by comparing them to the always more immoral and more dangerous possibility of same-sex attractions, which are always unnatural. Finally, I argue that Gower raises same-sex desire from a private to a public concern by linking it to fears regarding destruction of property and general lawlessness that were circulating in fourteenth century England.