Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

November 2021

Cockerel mounting a hen
Cockerel mounting a hen (MOLAA, BWB83 [136] <14>) C. 1350-1400, English. Image © Museum of London. Reproduced here with permission from the Museum.

Hinds, Sarah. "Late Medieval Sexual Badges as Sexual Signifiers: A Material Culture Reappraisal." Medieval Feminist Forum 55, 2 (2020): 170-191. Available with a subscription on the Medieval Feminist Forum website: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/mff/vol55/iss2/8/

Abstract: "This article offers a new interpretation of late medieval “profane” badges as objects which signified sexual activity within an urban masculine youth culture. Much scholarship on badges with sexual or genital content has typically examined these objects through an iconographical lens and has characterised their function as apotropaic. This study instead focuses on the material properties and archaeological contexts of one form of badge, a cockerel mounting a hen. It explores the materiality, motif, and depositional contexts of these badges through the framework of the life-course and posits that these were objects owned and used by young males to signify their engagement in pre-marital sexual activity. The case is made that cock and hen badges functioned as markers of status and belonging amongst young men in late medieval London who were biologically adults, but socially children. These badges allowed their owners to demonstrate a form of masculinity to their peers at a time in their lives when other forms were denied to them structurally." - [Abstract written by the author.]