Norse Sexuality

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There is no term for sexual orientation in norrœnt mál (Old Norse), and blanda, the word for intercourse, does not make a distinction between the two biological genders. Homosexuality was only stigmatized during forced Christianization. As a matter of fact, the first derogatory reference to homosexuality in Scandinavia is made by Bishop Þorlákr Þórhallson in the 13th century, and the secular laws of Iceland do not mention homosexuality. 

Homosexuality in Norse Culture

It is customary for Vikings to rape enemies who have lost battles, both male and female, and sexual control is also a method for keeping þrælar in line. Likewise, burial rituals involve hirðmenn having sex with a deceased’s slave(s), male and/or female, so their semen, a vehicle for their strength, can be carried in the afterlife for the benefit of the dead jarl. In addition, Loki turned himself into a mare in order to be impregnated by a stallion, to eventually give birth to Óðinn’s horse, Sleipnir. Þórr also had sex with Loki. As a male. Lastly, Óðinn is actually described as acting in a sexually receptive way, and as taking a female sexual role, for the purpose of learning about magic. Furthermore, at least one Viking war band, Jómsvíkingar, was known for its institutionalized homosexual culture, similar to the Spartans, with women being banned from the Jomsvikings’ units and forts, and members known to be partnered to other warriors.

Effeminacy in Norse culture

A lack of manliness, or the display of otherwise feminine features in a man, including submission or the practice of magics, is however highly stigmatized in Norse culture. This is well illustrated by the worst possible insults, both in Old Norse and modern Icelandic, invariably challenging a man’s manliness. Effeminacy, however, is unrelated to sexual orientation. The misconception may be linked to the gay movement, closely associated with feminism, and which inherently embraces feminization and emasculation of men. This is in contrast to homosexuality per say, which actually embraces hypermasculinity and honors fundamental male characteristics, features, and qualities.