I am currently enrolled in an English course that specifically focuses on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, particularly The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is a widely recognized English writer who lived in England during the Middle Ages, and examining his literature has allowed me to gain a better understanding of how men and women were perceived in terms of sexuality and physicality.
It is common knowledge that the female body is sexually displayed and furthermore emphasized in contemporary society. Media depictions of women tend to exaggerate their physicality, and it is arguable that media depictions of men are not exaggerated to the same extent. This, however, was not the case in the Middle Ages, as I learned in class this week.
If you were to conduct a Google image search of men in the Middle Ages you will likely discover paintings of men dressed in incredibly colourful and intricate garments. Granted, this attire was not donned by all men in this era – rather, these colourful outfits were specific to those belonging to higher ranking social classes, for example Artisans and nobility. However, for men who were part of an elevated social hierarchy, tight and bright clothing was a means to exhibit their social status, and as I learned in lecture, the tighter the better. A majority of upper class men exercised use of what is referred to as a codpiece, a clothing insert that was intended to emphasize and exaggerate the appearance of their genetalia. King Henry VIII had a particularly apparent codpiece as a component of his battle armour, and I encourage you to check it out for a good chuckle:
Gets the point across, right?
I find it fascinating that society has seemingly reversed the hypersexualization of males and females and their physicality. Perhaps this portrayal will reverse again in time, but for now I pray that women refrain from inserting metal objects in their bras to achieve a bustier appearance.