Same-Sex Sexuality in Later Medieval English Culture
by Tom Linkinen
Amsterdam University Press
334 pages, $99.
IN 1394, according to London court records, one John “Eleanor” Rykener was arrested after being caught cross-dressing and having sex with a man in a public stall. Rykener admitted to other acts of prostitution. He described living and working as a woman in several towns. While playing a passive sexual role with men, he claimed to have sex with women as the active partner. Contemporary historians have a hard time fitting Rykener into our sexual categories: homosexual, gay man, transvestite, transsexual. His crime was simply the commission of “unnatural” acts, but it’s clear that “unnaturalness” could refer to multiple deviations of sex, morality, gender, and even politics, as we shall see.
Tom Linkinen’s monograph on same-sex sexuality in late medieval England tackles these issues in a scholarly yet approachable way.