trial by impotence

France in the 17th century was not kind to the impotent as the inability to consummate a marriage* was grounds for divorce. Women who wanted to be rid of their husbands would accuse them of not being able to maintain an erection and it was then up to the husband to prove that he could.

please dave

A hands-on testimony could be demanded by either party to a case, either to prove or to disprove accusations of sexual inability under any of the three heads of valid sexual congress, be it erection,intromission, or ejaculation

Simply achieving an erection was not enough. Instead, literally hordes of experts would poke, prod, molest, and scrutinise the penis, assessing it for size, tensile strength, hardness, and curvature, all of which were deemed to play a part in ensuring capacity for intercourse.


Furthermore, the volume, size, and pendulosity of the “cullions” or testicles was also open for debate. Given all that, it really is no surprise that even with the greatest “libidinous provocation” of the duly assigned matrons in the case, having one’s member handled by a bevy of critics, combined with the pressure of knowing that this particular stiffy was nearly all that stood between the candidate and the loss of half his worldly goods, was almost certain to render even the most hot-blooded male barely able even to present a semi.


Even where the sexual capacity of the woman was not in question, a genital examination was still carried out as a matter of course. Why? Because if the man that the unfortunate woman married was indeed impotent, then she’d still be a virgin, at least in theory. Therefore it was necessary to discern such a state, not an easy task by any token. Theories abounded. Some thought that after she were deflowered, the maiden’s nose would change from a rounded, chubby shape to a more gaunt and pointy mien. Others looked for it in the manner in which she walked. But one system which most tended to agree on was a genital examination, in order to detect a hymen or the tight, narrow character which, to the minds of the alleged experts, signified that the woman had yet to experience penetration.

handwrench by martus

Even if her privy parts were found to be too distended, this was still not a cast-iron disproof of the impotence allegation. As one trial lawyer put it, a woman’s husband might “have done more work with his ten fingers over the past year than thought possible.”


*from Trial by Congress by Hazelnut

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 8:02 am  Comments (31)  

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31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I thought this game was called doctor and nurse?

  2. Think again 😉

  3. Thanks! I really enjoy these history lessons.

  4. the french got this right! i could marry my way to MILLIONS! yee-haw!

  5. I love the “Please, Dave” image. There’s something very Joy Division in the phrase, “One Intimate Neglect”, don’t you think?

  6. This is the kind of scrutiny that could cause a problem where one didn’t previously exist.

  7. One could do ample monkeying around with those wrenches. Ah, I love a bad pun in the morning.

  8. Can you imagine being the guy who had to administer all these tests?

  9. How could one resist the arts of a Matron schooled in “libidinous provocation”. I never could.

    Eowhhhh Matron! (said in a Kenneth Williams kinda way)

    The King

    • I prefer the “docking noise” you make to the Kenneth Williams voice 😉

  10. So my pointy-nosed, 80 year old neighbor is probably getting more than she can handle. Cool!

  11. What if the guy’s not impotent but just tiny?

    Though, I suppose anything can feel good at 300 miles per hour.

  12. Oh dear, isn’t life complicated enough …… oh well … if I must ……

    love the spanners … great image ……

    • That’s right daddyp – just concentrate on the spanners

  13. The great thing is that if you were severely impotent you could always pass yourself off as a eunuch and make lots of money annoying people into paying you not to flash at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

    Just a bit of advice for any unfortunate 17th century man who’s reading this.
    Yes, I mean you, Pierre…

  14. Gotta “hand” it to you, nursemyra, i’m learning all kinds of useful things from this blog.

    Decided a long time ago your Fridays could be prescribed to cure impotence.

  15. At least they had a scientific approach.

    • That’s right. All the scientists I know are into poking, prodding and molesting

      • DaisyFae is, and she’s as scientisty as you can get.

  16. Dave? Do you want to buy some pegs?

  17. I’ve seen your pegs anaglyph – they’re very high quality

    • They’re only for local people tho.

      • 😉

  18. But were the duly assigned matrons (for the “libidinous provocation”) of good character?

  19. If you can’t be hard, at least be handy.

  20. This all sounds rather intrusive nurse.

  21. ‘ and pendulosity of the “cullions” or testicles was also open for debate.’

    How do you measure that… and what should I be aiming for.

  22. Is this where we get the term ‘nasty divorce?’

  23. Where do I apply to be one of the “matrons in charge of libidinous provocation?”

  24. Oi! You could at least have credited it to me, who wrote this piece on in 2007!

    I am really not happy right now.

    • Hazelnut, I am really very very sorry about this oversight. Please give me the link and I will rectify it immediately

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