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I'm reading the Grágás laws of early Iceland and have come across a passage I don't understand:

K155, Ib p.47

"If a man kisses a woman in private, with no one else present and with her consent, then he incurs a penalty of three marks and the case lies with the same man as an intercourse case would. But if she takes offence at it, then the case lies with her and the penalty is lesser outlawry."

Does this refer to a kiss between any man and a woman or does it specifically related to one or the other being married? Did this law apply if two unmarried but consenting individuals kissed?

  • that's interesting. So if no one was around the lady could later have formally accused the guy of kissing her. Nowadays that would not get very far in court. – coderworks Feb 20 '18 at 21:10
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    @coderworks with the recent Harvey Weinstein situation I'd be inclined to disagree. On a seperate note, I do believe that character witnesses and neighbours were consulted to determine the potential validity of the claim. I very much doubt any penalty would be given on first offence but if women continually reported him it would be obvious they were telling the truth. – Charlie Feb 20 '18 at 21:19
  • Somewhat related SATW: satwcomic.com/baby-daddy – Antzi Feb 21 '18 at 5:56
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    For those of us who aren't up on medieval Iceland...what year would this be? Pagan era? Christian? – Ben Crowell Feb 21 '18 at 6:14
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    @Antzi that web page is spreading lies and is deeply insulting. Viking society was one of the most chaste societies that ever existed. Vikings even took their family on raids and were severely punished for committing adultery. Learn and love your heritage and ancestors, don't insult them. – Charlie Feb 21 '18 at 22:00
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If the kiss was between unmarried, heterosexual youths the boy would be criminally liable to the girl's father, guardian, or another male family member. "... if a woman was an aggrieved party and owned a right of prosecution, she was to put her claim into the hands of a man." [Byock, "Viking Age Iceland" pp. 317] After all, "giving away a daughter in marriage, a father or the head of a household, sometimes a woman, was investing the family's limited marriage capital in a new kinship alliance...." [Byock pp. 214]

If the kiss was between married adults the man would be liable to the woman's husband like the adultery case in Hallfred's Saga [Byock pp. 121].

The law didn't actually govern all extramarital sex: it is clear from the sagas that concubinage was a national custom. Grágas barely mentioned it despite its great detail about cases of seduction [Byock pp. 134].

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