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Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism 

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Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism

By Stephanie Paulsell

The early Christian church was concerned with the sexuality of women because it had its own views on gender and sex roles. The church leaders wanted women to be modest, chaste, and obedient; they did not want them to behave like men or take on male roles such as preaching or teaching. They also believed that women were weak and in need of protection from the world at large, so they blamed feminine desire for their lack of virtue.

The early Christians used various strategies to discourage women from having same-sex relationships. They argued that the female body was inherently tainted by sin, so all sexual activity was sinful. They also argued that women who had sex with other women were committing adultery against their husbands since they were supposed to be loyal only to their spouses (1 Cor 7:10-16). The early Christian writers also believed that same-sex relationships were unnatural since they involved two people who were of the same gender rather than different genders like God intended (Gen 1:27).

About Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism 

Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism

In the early Christian era, female homoeroticism was a fairly well-known phenomenon. The Bible mentions it several times, and it was understood to be a natural part of life for many people. There are some indications that lesbians were treated well in ancient society—they were often allowed to serve as prostitutes, for example, and their sexuality was seen as harmless compared with that of men.

But despite this relative tolerance of female homoeroticism, there were also negative stereotypes about women who loved other women. For example, in Plutarch’s Moralia we find an anecdote about two women who were said to have engaged in an affair together:

When [the mother] saw them lying together naked, she thought they were making love together; but when she came up close and saw what they really were doing, she was horrified at first; then she burst into laughter and said: “Well done my daughters! I am greatly pleased with what you do.” (Plutarch Moralia 469B)


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