“The Puritans and Sex”, Edmund S. Morgan

Table of Content

When the Puritan came to the New World after being rejected in England for their beliefs, they knew the demand of perfection in God’s eyes could never be fully accomplish. Humans could never live up to the standards that God set out. After settling in New England, the Puritan became well aware they needed to have law enforcement with religious obligations, and most importantly the sexual temptations. Knowing that human could never fully obey God’s word and always be tempted, the puritans enforced certain punishments for certain sexual crimes, including fornication, adultery, rape and buggery or sodomy.

In 1630, the Puritan established the Massachusetts Bay Colony to practice and love God in their own way. They had a very strict government, with next to no democracy. They believed in hard work and maintaining education. The members who showed weakness and did not practice self-denial would be punished. They also were punished for being guilty of gambling, drunkenness, or enjoying theatrical performances. The most stricted laws of the Puritans were the objectification of sex. They believe in marriage to be a spiritual partnership and for sex to be a minor part.

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They became to realize though that human could never be able to abide by the word of Lord since the time of Adam. It is human nature to be tempted and sin. For one example most men to came to the New World at that time left their wife and children back in England and would still have sexual temptations. They knew they had to make adjustments for the community to follow the ways of the religion. They enforced laws and if broken would have severe punishments. Throughout the years the Puritans they had many court cases due to the laws on sex out of their marriage.

A few would be charged between slaves, some for not being married, which would need permission from the master and others cases included the masters or non-slaves taking advantage of them. Other cases included adultery, rape, and other forms of forincation. Not all cases would be completely true, some slaves women with illegitimate would go to court and tell judge their master raped them, when instead they were covering up for the father who was a slave as well. Since all of these cases over time the Puritan have change and added to laws to help prevent sexual crimes.

A very common one was the arrangement of marriage. This made it easier for the men and women to get married younger, to ensure they would keep their vow of virginity. As it says in the book, “ As marriage was the way to prevent fornication, successful marriage was the way to prevent adultery”. After helping to prevent fornication, they also put in other laws to help prevent adultery. One was if the husband or wife leaves the home or leave puritan county lines for an amount of time, they would be immediately sent back to their families and punished.

Also for husband who came to the New World alone and left their families in England would be set back if they were on Puritan grounds. All of these charges would be punished by paying a certain amount of pounds and receiving a certain about or stripes(whippings) depending on the case. Another issue that occurred during this time was the friendship of two members of the opposite sex who weren’t married or had other significant others. The real issue wasn’t necessarily the friendship, but more of two different sexes being alone together.

For example November of 1630, the court prohibited Mr. Clark from keeping Mrs. Freeman company or he would endure pain of the courts choosing. Though the Puritans have come off in history as a very non-sexual community and even made laws to help be the vision of God’s will, they still were not exactly morally perfect. Overall, the Puritan way of life, though following the values of God, but also having a society with flaws. They understood that all humans were defected and have a human instinct, but at the same time knew their moral values.

Mainly, that having sex before marriage was unacceptable, same for adultery, sodomy and other sexual forms. They knew humans would have natural temptation, but believed if they were even were to cross the line to sin, it would result in punishment. Despite the fact some laws being broken, it gives the Puritan a different look to the public of current society. Though many generations apart, the Puritan show how human nature doesn’t change much over time.

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“The Puritans and Sex”, Edmund S. Morgan. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from


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