After the dedication, Eleanor saw Bernard privately, probably at her own request. He came prepared to offer more spiritual comfort, thinking that she too might be suffering qualms of conscience over Vitry, but he was surprised to learn that she was not. Nevertheless, several matters were indeed troubling her, not the least the problems of her sister. She asked him to use his influence with the Pope to have the excommunication on Raoul and Petronilla lifted and their marriage recognised by the Church. In return, she would persuade Louis to make peace with Theobald of Champagne and recognise Pierre de la Chatre as Archbishop of Bourges. Bernard was appalled at her brazen candour. In his opinion, these affairs were no business of a twenty-two-year-old woman. He was, in fact, terrified of women and their possible effects on him. An adolescent, first experiencing physical desire for a young girl, he had been so filled with self-disgust that he had jumped into a freezing cold pond & remained there until his erection subsided. He strongly disapproved of his sister, who had married a rich man; because she enjoyed her wealth, he thought of her as a whore, spawned by Satan to lure her husband from the paths of righteousness, and refused to have anything to do with her. Nor would he allow his monks any contact with their female relatives. Now there stood before him the young, worldly, and disturbingly beautiful Queen of France, intent upon meddling in matters that were not her concern. Bernard's worst suspicions were confirmed: here, beyond doubt, was the source of that "Counsel of the Devil" that had urged the King on to disaster and plunged him into sin and guilt. His immediate reaction was to admonish Eleanor severely.
There can have been no doubt in Eleanor's mind as to what was expected of her as a wife. In her day, women were supposed to be chaste both inside and outside marriage, virginity and celibacy being highly prized states. When it came to fornication, women were usually apportioned the blame, because they were the descendants of Eve, who had tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, with such dire consequences. Women, the Church taught, were the weaker vessel, the gateway to the Devil, and therefore the source of all lechery. St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote: "To live with a woman without danger is more difficult than raising the dead to life." Noblewomen, he felt, were the most dangerous so fall. Women were therefore kept firmly in their place in order to prevent them from luring men away from the paths of righteousness. Promiscuity--and its often inevitable consequence, illicit pregnancy--brought great shame upon a woman and her family, and was punishable by fines, social ostracism, and even, in the case of aristocratic and royal women, execution. Unmarried women who indulged in fornication devalued themselves on the marriage market. In England, women who were sexually experienced were not permitted to accuse men of rape in the King's court. Female adultery was seen as a particularly serious offence, since it jeopardized the laws of inheritance. Men, however, often indulged in casual sex and adultery with impunity. Because the virtue of high-born women was jealously guarded, many men sought sexual adventures with lower-class women. Prostitution was common and official brothels were licensed and subject to inspection in many areas. There was no effective contraception apart from withdrawal, and the Church frowned upon that anyway: this was why so many aristocratic and royal bastards were born during this period.