While I was gathering information on my thesis about the enforcement of clerical celibacy in the early church (which I will write more about) I came across this text. It was about a cross-dressing prostitute who liked to sleep with both men and women. I did not think it was that big of a deal since some people do that today, but given the text was composed in 1395 it was significant as that was unheard of and considered wrong. As I continued to read the text, I could not believe the sentence that he accommodated priests more than others as they paid more. Once I read that, I was laughing and shocked at the same time. I was excited for support for my paper, but what he was confessing was amazing.
This cross-dressing prostitute was named John Rykener. He was from England and was caught at night while dressed as a women named Eleanor performing a service for a man. The best part was that the man who approached ‘Eleanor’ asked if he was a woman (John was dressed as one), which he Eleanor replied yes, and then they went to a stall to do their business. How could this guy not tell?!?
They were found by officials patrolling the street and ‘were captured there during these detestable wrongdoings.’ Whenever John stated that he slept with men, the author of this text barely states that John had sex, but instead states things such as ‘that detestable and unmentionable and ignominious vice’ and ‘commit a libidinous act.’ Meaning that people considered it to be vile and disgusting beyond belief and anyone continuing to commit this act was unimaginable.
Then he describes how he became a cross dressing prostitute who worked as an embroiderss and slept with other men. Then he states that he had sex as a man with nuns (which I guess is not too surprising as priests did, why not nuns) and other women and had sex as a woman with men and friars. He slept with all these people for money, but my favorite was when John spoke about priests as ‘they wished to give [him] more than others’ and he liked to accommodate them more than other people.
This text showed that even though the Church abolished clergy from having sex it was difficult to enforce. When they wanted to have sex, some priests and nuns did anyways and paid well for the services that were rendered. This text also shows that people from centuries ago are not so different from today, as people can get themselves in ridiculous situations and others can reap the benefits from it. In this case, to laugh and learn that people have been doing this for centuries.