Sexuality in Puritan New England







Sex is a completely normal, healthy act as long as it is practiced within the confines of marriage


Husband and wife are encouraged by the church to have sexual relations for several reasons:

A.  For procreation

B. A healthy sex life within marriage with help eliminate illicit affairs.

C. Pleasure


Deviant sexual behaviors have natural and unnatural forms

Natural Forms:  adultery, non-marital sex, incest, and masturbation

Unnatural Forms: Sodomy and Bestiality


If a spouse refused to engage in “Conjugal relations”, the issue could be taken to the magistrate and a divorce might be granted.

A. In one case, James Mattock was excommunicated from a Boston    church for refusing to sleep with his wife for two years.

B. In another case, a woman admitted to committing adultery, but that was overlooked because her husband admitted that he has “deserted her for several years.”  She was then granted a divorce.

C. A woman could also be granted a divorce if her expectation of “content and satisfaction in bed” was not met.  The man was judged “deficient in performing the duty of a husband” or referred to as a “pretend husband.”






Although sex within marriage was seen to be a good thing, it could be overindulged and become sinful.




“Doting upon loving the creature more than the Creator,” was seen to be “horrible idolatry”


Generation was considered contaminated because of the Adam and Eve.


The second generation of Puritans used sex and eroticism to lure the youth back to the Bible.


Physical beauty could be harmful because it might bewitch men and cause them to become lustful.



Return to ‘Gender and Sexuality in Colonial America’