The Question of Saint Joan of Arc's Sexuality and Gender

Painted sandstone head of Joan of Arc

Why do some historians spend so much time on the subject of Joan wearing man's clothing?

Down through the years different scholars have tried to infer from the fact that Joan wore men's clothing that she was either consciously or unconsciously a transvestite, bi-sexual, a lesbian or even that she was a-sexual.

When George Sand wore men's clothing, smoked big cigars and drank whiskey among her 19th century male literary contemporaries was she trying to make an unconscious statement that she was a transvestite, bi-sexual, a lesbian or even that she was a-sexual? Was she trying to deny her womanhood or diminish her femininity?

No, of course not!

Her purpose was purely practical. By donning men's clothing, and using a male 'nom de plume,' George Sand, was able to gain access into the male dominated world of 19th century French literature, that was otherwise closed to women. By using male clothing she was able to associate with these men. Over time she won their acceptance - and with their acceptance she was treated as an equal - she was taken seriously.

A case in point. Even though Beatrix Potter was an exceptional and scholarly naturalist, the scientists of her day refused to accept her into their company. They dismissed her work out of hand just because she was a woman and for no other reason.

I submit that Joan put on male attire for one reason only - that she might accomplish her GOD given mission. Joan knew - (either from her own innate wisdom or by the instruction of her voices: Joan of course would say that it was by the guidance of her voices) - that she would have to:

1) gain entry into the male society

2) gain acceptance of those she had come to help and

3) most importantly be taken seriously by them.

The male clothing that she wore was nothing more than a tool and a symbol. A tool in that, it allowed her to do the work God had assigned her - the work of a man.

It is true that during her trial Joan refused to take off her male attire which became a point of conflict between her and Bishop Cauchon. It was only as the trial dragged on and she was pressed more and more frequently to take off her male attire that Joan began to see her male clothing as a symbol of her LOYALTY to God and her MISSION. Yet, Joan insisted that if her voices had commanded her to 'put off,' in other words, stop wearing, male clothing she would have swiftly complied to their order.

Did Joan of Arc deny her womanhood or diminish her femininity?

Let us look at the facts:

1) Joan did not conceal the fact that she was a woman and a virgin. On the contrary she purposefully called herself - Jeanne, la Pucelle - Joan, the Maid, because she wanted to emphasize that she WAS a woman and a virgin.

2) Joan of Arc was never interested in having sex with men. Her drive and passion were directed solely toward accomplishing her God given goal. When she was not on a military campaign, she spent her time with women doing the things that women did, such as sewing and spinning.

3) Joan continued her spiritual and religious practices as she had done in Domremy.

4) Joan treated the "common people" in a kind and gentle manner as she had always done back home.

5) She forbade swearing, drunkenness and womanizing among her troops - a very feminine thing to do - yet she did it for purely spiritual reasons.

6) She freely expressed her emotions in an age when men were noted for their stoicism.

7) At her trial she proudly proclaimed her expertise in sewing and spinning.

Are these the traits of someone who was trying to deny her womanhood or diminish her femininity?

I think not.

What about the question of Joan not having a menstrual cycle?

I spoke with Régine Pernoud, in 1984, about Jean d'Aulon's statement that he overheard some women say that they never saw Joan menstruate. Professor Pernoud down played the importance and accuracy of d'Aulon's statement for two reasons:

1) it was THIRD HAND information and

2) his statement was never substantiated by any other testimony given at the Trial of Nullification.

This question would not have even been brought up at all if it were not for chauvinistic intellectuals who can't accept Joan at face value but have to go in search of exotic explanations to explain her life away.

One scholar, in his chauvinistic thinking, could not accept the fact that Joan could do the things a man could, (and do them better than any man) that is, have physical endurance and military skill, unless she was a hermaphrodite. And to prove his point he cites d'Aulon's testimony. His conclusion is so illogical as to be laughable. It is equally consistent to say that any woman without a menstrual cycle is a hermaphrodite as it is to say that Joan was a hermaphrodite because she supposedly did not have a menstrual cycle.

Other scholars use the idea that Joan did not have a menstrual cycle to prove that she was mentally ill or neurotic, unable to accept her changing body, and that she was becoming a woman.

PLEASE, give me a break!

I am a Psychiatric Nurse, and I work with the mentally ill. A woman would have to be profoundly mentally ill to affect her menstrual cycle. This degree of mental illness would spill over into other areas of her life. After a time her mental illness would affected her relationships with those around her and they would begin to 'see' her abnormal behavior. Joan was NEVER accused or thought of as being mentally unbalanced by any of her contemporaries.

It is a well known medical fact that a woman can be amenorrheic when she fasts and exercises as in the case of an athlete. I have no problem believing Joan was athletic and she did fast for spiritual reasons which might have affected her menstrual period. But other than to these chauvinistic thinkers what difference does this point really make? Simply put - NONE!

Was Joan of Arc raped after her abjuration?

It is curious to me why modern scholars are so insistent that Joan was raped or even gang-raped, sometime during the three days after she signed the abjuration. They appear to be so convinced of it that they are willing to state the point as though it was fact instead of conjecture. Where did this proposed idea come from?

I believe this opinion started with, the scholar, Andrea Dworkin. In her work entitled, Intercourse, Chapter 6, Virginity, Ms. Andrea Dworkin states on page 104, "She (Joan of Arc) was attacked and beaten, at least once. It is inconceivable that she was not raped during the period she was in female clothing if the men, or a man, an English lord, determined that she would be raped. She was chained, no longer physically strong; no longer a witch, no longer a soldier; dressed female. They were armed. Any woman who can be badly beaten can be raped." "She was a woman who was raped and beaten and did not care if she died - that indifference a consequence of rape...."

"She never admitted to being raped - admitting to an attempt (? my question mark and emphasis)- would be humiliations enough and reason enough to help her if her judges ever intended to - and being a virgin was still the only chance she had for mercy." (my emphasis)

Yet earlier in this same chapter, on page 100, Ms. Dworkin states, "The Inquisition did not honor Joan's virginity: it was barely mentioned at her trial, except by her. The Inquisition did not accept Joan's virginity as evidence of her love of God as it would indisputably accept virginity in feminine dress."

And again on page 101 the author states, "Though Joan was examined while held captive by the Burgundians, (This is an error of the facts. Joan of Arc was examined by the Duchess of Bedford and her matrons while being held in the English prison of Rouen. VLF), to see whether she was a virgin, the subject of virginity was avoided by the Inquisitors. A virgin could not make a pact with the devil; but Joan would be convicted as a witch."

Joan of Arc was not stupid! She knew that the prelates who were trying her had no interest in or intention of documenting the fact that she was found to be a virgin by the Duchess of Bedford. "Ha! You take great care to put down in your trial everything that is against me, but you will not write down anything that is for me!" Joan declared at her trial. In the light of this fact why would Joan believe, even for one moment, that being a virgin was still the only chance she had for mercy. Ms. Dworkin can't have it both ways.

In the trial of Nullification, Fr. Manchon, testified that Joan told both Bishop Cauchon and the Earl of Warwick that, "my guards have several times tried to do me violence. Once even as I cried out, you, Lord Warwick, came at my cries to rescue me; and if you had not come, I should have been the victim of my guards."

Fr. Machon went on to say, "In fact, Joan dreaded that during the night her guards would assault her. Once or twice she complained to the Bishop of Beauvais.., that one of her guards had wished to violate her."

Now if during her trial Joan was not embarrassed nor ashamed to speak about her fears of being raped by her guards, why would she be ashamed or embarrassed to do so if she had actually been raped? In all her life, Joan never held her tongue but always 'told it like it was.'

The trial transcripts clearly states Joan's own words, "Alas! Do they treat me thus horribly and cruelly, so that my body, CLEAN AND WHOLE, WHICH WAS NEVER CORRUPTED, must be this day consumed and reduced to ashes!"

Here is another reason why I believe Joan was not raped. "Is it not common for a male to brag about his sexual 'accomplishments?' If this last statement were true, then would it not be conceivable for the guard or guards to brag about their rape of Joan all over Rouen? This information would have spread, like 'wildfire,' throughout the English troops coming finally to the ears of some Burgundian or English chronicler.

Since the Duke of Bedford had such a vile hatred for Joan, would he not have gloated over this fact at least in the letters he wrote to his friends? I believe he would have cited the event, if for no other reason than as 'proof' that Joan was not from God because God did not protect her from such a violation.

Even if the supposed rape were not written down by a chronicler, as I said before, it definitely would have been 'verbally' spread throughout the English army in order to lift the morale of the common foot soldier. This nasty little tidbit could easily have been passed down- as everybody likes to listen to and tell nasty stories about famous people - until the time of Shakespeare. Now, seeing how Shakespeare treated Joan in his play Henry VI Part I, he would have had no difficulty relating this vile story to the audience.

Are modern scholars saying Joan was raped in the interest of "Historical Honesty and Accuracy?" Is it because they feel, in the 'real' world, "Any woman who can be badly beaten can be raped." and therefore Joan HAD to have been raped?

In my paper, "God's Providential Care of Joan," I show how God preserved Joan's life on four separate occasions. If God could do this, could HE not save her from being raped?

The modern scholar might reply, "Ah! but that's the point, the existence of God cannot be scientifically proven, therefore there is NO GOD! At least no God that would be interested in one individual life or their safety."

Is it just because Joan's life speaks of the existence of a personal and caring God, that modern skeptical scholars have such difficulty accepting it? In order for the modern scholar to be able to 'live' with this extraordinary and exemplary person, they have to go in search of "logical and scientific" reasons that will comfortable explain her life away.

If I must be the lone voice, "crying in the wilderness," of modern thought - then so be it. I am not afraid to go against the 'popular' belief because I will be in good company.


Was Saint Joan a Lesbian?

The early twentieth century English writer, Vita Sackville-West, in her book Saint Joan of Arc accused St. Joan of being a lesbian. She based her opinion on Simon Beaucroix's testimony; "Joan slept always with young girls, she did not like to sleep with old women."

It would seem the phrase, 'slept always with young girls,' conjured in Sackville-West's mind, scenes of Lesbian love making instead of taking the statement at face value. Obviously the author was ill informed about the common and accepted practice of the day that unmarried women could sleep together, in the same bed, without arousing suspicions that lesbian activities were going on between them. In Joan's time, there was NO central heating, therefore, to keep warm unmarried women slept together. This practice also helped to keep down the number of illicit sexual encounters between unmarried men and women.

No, St. Joan was NOT a lesbian, but it is a well documented fact that Vita Sackville-West was a lesbian. She was openly "out of the closet" during a time in history when it was accepted for intellectuals and artists in Europe to flout convention (especially those liberal British intellectuals like the Bloomsbury Group). It was her own proclivity for sleeping with women that pre-disposed her to misinterpret Beaucroix's statement and make this erroneous assumption about Joan.

It is evident to anyone who reads Vita Sackville-West's interpretation of St. Joan's history that she was incapable of comprehending her subject. She gets all the dates and most of the action right, but because of her sad, caustic, narrow and nihilistic view of the world, Ms. Sackville-West was not able to fathom the pure motivations that guided Joan nor was she able to accept Joan's straight forward truthfulness. Instead she presents Joan as being more than a little crazy with a delusional bent, while imagined herself capable of improving on Joan's perceptions and military decisions.

Another good article on that subject on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia: Joan of Arc : cross-dressing, lesbian, sexuality and transgender issues
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