#Vikings has everything you'd want in a show: Violence, action, scandal, betrayal, and of course, sex. Lots of sex. Especially the extramarital kind.
The heathen inhabitants of Kattegat are far from uptight when it comes to their sex lives. They talk openly about sex, duck out of sacred rituals to hook up, and are big fans of group sex. Remember that crazy mushroom-fuelled orgy at Uppsala?
Given its the show's often dubious reputation for its interpretation of viking culture, the accuracy Vikings portrayal of ancient Scandinavian sex lives is pretty questionable. Were they really that wild, or is Michael Hirst just playing up the sexiness for the sake of ratings? Let's break it down.
Did They "Share" Women?
Season 4 of Vikings has introduced us to some interesting themes in the Lothbrok household. It seems that brothers Ubbe, Hvitserk and Siggurd are all involved with the same girl, and are all well aware of it.
Margrethe is a servant, so according to atrocious viking laws, they wouldn't legally need her consent to have sex with her. Luckily, three of Aslaug's four sons actually have a conscience, and are all about consent— Ubbe makes repeated mention of her being a human being who must agree to sleep with them. He also asks her to choose which of them she would like to marry, despite him having enough power to demand whatever he likes.
But even after Margrethe settles down with Ubbe, Hvitserk still jokes about them all sharing her. On their wedding night, Ubbe says that he doesn't think it's fair that he keeps her all to himself, and Margrethe invites both of them to sleep with her:
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But were the vikings really that progressive? Ubbe's claims of vikings being impervious to jealousy seem more like the conceited bragging of some creepy hippie you'd meet at Burning Man than a pagan warrior.
As usual, the answer is not as clear as we'd like it to be, simply because the historical accounts from the viking era are a little unreliable. The jury is still out on the whole situation, but many scholars believe that the vikings may have taken multiple lovers.
First of all, love wasn't necessarily a driving force behind many viking marriages. Back in the day, marriage was a method of attaining property, wealth and status, as well as continuing bloodlines through producing children. Quite unromantic, but practical.
Some accounts of viking history suggest that it was perfectly acceptable for a viking to have a lover outside of their marriage, so long as it didn't affect any of those aforementioned factors, and wasn't with anyone who was already married. In fact, the Sturlunga saga makes mention of most married men having lovers.
But this most likely would relate to men more than women, considering the risk of a woman carrying a child that didn't belong to her husband. At the other end of the spectrum, some viking societies imposed fines on adulterers.
However, it would be rare to see a polyamorous situation like the one depicted in Vikings. There is no record of open viking marriages, most likely because it may have affected the protection of one bloodline through producing children.
Did They Have Threesomes?
There are many accounts of group sex throughout viking culture, especially in particular rituals. Sex was also a common theme in their mythology. Basically, sex was seen as something to be celebrated and enjoyed, and not a source of shame.
But does the show accurately portray this? We frequently see characters on the show setting up threesomes, from Lagertha and Ragnar inviting Aethelstan to bed, to Torstein shacking up with Floki and Helga. While group sex for ritual purposes may be documented, it's not quite the same as what went on behind closed doors.
It's really not known if vikings were as relaxed about sharing their beds as we may like to think. Sure, it's possible, but probably not as commonplace as Michael Hirst wants us to believe. The regular occurrence of threesomes in Vikings is most likely a very obvious way to demonstrate how sexually liberated they were in comparison to other medieval cultures.
Were They Polygamists?
Ragnar's newfound interest in polygamy after a pregnant Aslaug rocked up on his doorstep may have insulted Lagertha, but he wasn't lying when he told her that he'd heard of it being practiced elsewhere.
Polygamy is cited as being one of the main reasons for vikings' raids to far away lands. With many men taking multiple wives, they had to travel to other countries to, well, steal some more women.
While polygamy may have been an accepted part of some viking societies in both real life and on the show, Lagertha didn't really give a damn. After all, that's not the kind of marriage she'd signed up for.
Do you think Björn and Astrid's affair will cause problems with Lagertha?