I have a large army, Let's say 100,000 male and female adolescent soldiers, my commanders are old veterans and they are few but they need a way to prevent pregnancies among my shieldmaidens.

How do I prevent this?

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as a medieval army of 100,000 soldiers, and most definitely there is no such thing as a medieval army with significant numbers of female combatants. (OK, both existed, but not in the Western European Middle Ages nor at the same time.) So if this fantastic Middle Ages has 100,000 soldier armies, and it has soldieresses, why doesn't it have condoms (which in real history were invented just a bit after the Middle Ages) and IUDs? Note that actual medieval armies were actually accompanied by camp followers and their children... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 14 '18 at 1:05
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ And honest-to-goodness medieval armies were ephemeral. They gathered in spring, fought for one or two or maybe three months, then disbanded. Any children would come later, and thus avoid being a problem for the army. In the entire Europe only emperor of Constantinople and some Arab emirs/caliphs had standing armies, and those armies did not have female combatants. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 14 '18 at 1:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Medieval" is a specific period in history. If by "medieval" you don't mean "medieval", then you must explain what you mean. For example, in Western European Middle Ages the economy and technology were of such level that a 100,000 army would promptly starve, but not before bankrupting the silly king and bringing famine into the country due to lack of agricultural workforce. There is simply no way for a Western European country to maintain a standing army of 100,000 soldiers, or even 10,000. The legal definition of an army was "more than two dozen armed men". An army of 4,000 was huge. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 14 '18 at 1:20
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ All right, you are building a world. What does "medieval" mean in your world, because it quite obviously has little in common with our Middle Ages? Your world's Middle Ages has (a) much more people than ours (the polity with a 100,000 strong standing army must have at least 25,000,000 inhabitants), (b) much more advanced agriculture, transportation and logistics (to be able to feed that army), (c) completely different weapons and military tactics (to allow for the female soldiers being not completely useless), (d) very much larger polities. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 14 '18 at 1:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP has a completely valid point that celibacy is unreasonable...or rather that the enforcement of celibacy will take so many resources as to be an unaffordable distraction. Are you willing to look at alternatives to celibacy that maximize combat effectiveness during the fighting season? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jul 14 '18 at 1:31

Here are 9 recommendations:

1) Males are taught that rape is evil and that premarital sex is shameful.

2) Female shieldmaidens are supposed to be maidens until they retire from the corps and get married, and thus fear the loss of virginity and marriage value.

3) Whenever someone tries to enter the camp of the shield maidens they must pass through an outer ring of married male guards who brought their wives along on the campaign, and then an inner ring of guards from a unit formed from male lovers, like the Sacred Band of Thebes, and then an inner ring of fierce eunuch guards, and then an innermost ring of fierce shield maiden guards. Females who leave the female camp have escorts of fierce eunuchs.

4) The female camp followers may include a unit of prostitutes for the male warriors, who thus have less inclination to romance or rape the shield maidens.

5) Many enemy females (and some males) may be captured for the pleasure of the male soldiers, who thus have less inclination to romance or rape the shield maidens.

6) If a female warrior becomes pregnant, no big deal, she loses respect and has a lowered marriage desirability and goes on maternity leave among the female camp followers (who will have a number of babies with them anyway) and has her term of service increased to compensate for the time in maternity leave.

7) If a female warrior is raped by an enemy who thinks: "Hah, hah! if she's pregnant she will raise the child of her enemy." the comrades of the female warrior will think: "Hah, Hah! If she's pregnant she will raise the enemy's son or daughter to hate the enemy nation and fight for us against them in the future."

8) If this is a fantasy novel maybe magic spells are used to reduce the libidos of male and female warriors and/or turn it into violence against the enemy.

9) This society - or its warrior subculture - believes in marrying young, so the majority of warriors, even the teenage ones, are already married to other warriors in the campaign.

Here are some comments about the probability of a 100,000 person field army with units of female warriors in the middle ages.

If medieval means anywhere on Earth during roughly 500 AD to 1500 AD, then there were some armies of 100,000 persons in some places on Earth during some parts of the medieval era.

Especially since "army" has 2 possible meanings and you didn't specify which in your question. An army can be One, the total number of land-fighting warriors in the armed forces of a country, and Two, which was harder to achieve, the total number of warriors in a field army, a fighting force marching together in a campaign.

I believe that during several decades in and around the reign of Emperor Basil II (co Emperor 960, reigning emperor 963, ruling 976-1025) and his immediate successors the Roman or "Byzantine" army had an estimated total strength of about 110,000 men. That was when the population and the area of the empire were estimated to be about 12,000,000 people and 1,675,000 square kilometers in 1025.

Most of the soldiers were part time soldiers, who farmed land they held on condition of serving in the armies of the themes during emergencies, but who were more professional than western European feudal warriors, and several thousand soldiers served in totally professional standing units.

I read that in the later Tang Dynasty about the 9th century AD the total size of the Chinese Army was over 900,000 men. But that was because some of the provinces and army units were controlled by almost independent governors and the central government had to increase the size of the forces it actually controlled to guard against any repetition of the An Lushan Rebellion.

During part of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) the Chinese army had over 1,000,000 men, probably the first time in history.

Muhammed bin Tuqlug, Sultan of Delhi (r. 1325-1351) planned a war of conquest and recruited a vast army, possibly as large as 3,700,000 men, in 1329, but released them from service after a year without doing anything with them.

Of course, a single field army on a campaign would have only a fraction of the total army of its state. Thus there were probably only a few medieval field armies - even in Asia - with more than 100,000 warriors marching together on a single campaign.

It may be noted that throughout history most armies contained large proportions of more or less noncombatant more or less civilian persons, often including many women and children. These noncombatants and civilians often outnumbered the actual soldiers or warriors.

Many barbarian war groups actually included every member of the tribe as the entire tribe migrated together. The warriors would be outnumbered many times by women, old people, and children. The Mongols of Genghis Khan, for example, were unique among horse riding nomads because their warriors were highly trained and disciplined soldiers, and the hordes left their families behind when they went on campaign. Every other nomadic horde included the families of the warriors.

So a typical nomadic or another barbarian group on the warpath would include the families of the warriors. Thus married couples would have sex on occasion and unmarried people would have sex about as often as unmarried people in their society would have if staying in their homeland during peace - a rate which no doubt varied greatly between cultures. And if there were prostitutes in a barbarian culture there would probably be prostitutes accompanying the barbarian war group. And male barbarians who owned female slaves could take the slaves along and have sex with them when they wanted. And occasionally with male slaves too.

And as civilized societies developed professional armies of soldiers those armies were accompanied by many civilians on campaigns, civilians called "camp followers".

Camp follower is a term used to identify civilians and their children who follow armies. There are two common types of camp followers; first, the wives and children of soldiers, who follow their spouse or parent's army from place to place; the second type of camp followers have historically been informal army service providers, servicing the needs of encamped soldiers, in particular selling goods or services that the military does not supply—these have included cooking, laundering, liquor, nursing, sexual services and cutlery.1


And as the article says, camp followers often outnumbered the army itself.

In India, there was a long military tradition of armies having several times their numbers in camp followers, and the British East Indian Company and later the British government picked up that practice.

A British Indian army brigade retreated from Kabul toward Jalalabad 90 miles away with 690 British and 3,800 Indian soldiers and 14,000 British and Indian camp-followers including thousands of women and children and was ambushed and massacred from 6 January to 13 January 1842.

Surgeon William Brydon reached Jalalabad on 13 January, and a few dozen Indian soldiers later reached Jalalabad. Of the British taken prisoner, 32 officers, over 50 enlisted men, 21 children, and 12 women survived to be released in September. About 2,000 Indian soldiers and civilians were found in Kabul and returned to Indian. The other 16,500 soldiers and civilians, including women and children, died of the cold or were massacred by Afghan tribesmen.

Anyway, that shows that 19th century British Indian army campaigns were typically accompanied by many camp followers including women and children.

At the Battle of the Wabash, or St. Clair's Defeat, 4 November 1791, 52 US officers and 868 enlisted men in the regulars, the levies, and the Kentucky militia were present for duty, with 200 to 250 camp followers - wives, children, laundresses, and prostitutes. 632 soldiers were killed or captured for burning at the stake and 264 were wounded. When the surviving soldiers retreated, almost all of the camp followers, who couldn't run as fast as the men, were massacred.

In the days when the British navy consisted of "wooden ships and iron men" there were also sometimes a few women aboard naval vessels at sea. And as a result, there were a number of babies allegedly born on naval voyages and sometimes even during naval battles.


In the US Civil War, the total strength of the Union and Rebel armies was often over 1,000,000 men and boys. And no doubt there were a lot of rapes committed by the soldiers. But from all, I have heard rapes by soldiers were comparatively rare, due probably to the majority of soldiers considering rape to be very wrong and to the usual availability of large numbers of prostitutes.

Thus women left without their men in territories where an enemy army - usually the Union army - was passing through were in only slight danger of rape, and female camp followers in an army would be in only slight danger of rape.

So I think that your fictional army should not have too much of a problem with soldiers trying to rape their female comrades if you establish some of the sociological and institutional safeguards against the rape of female camp followers that have been used by many armies throughout history.

The biggest problem you face would be making female warriors as opposed to camp followers plausible. I suggest that you make the female warriors a minority in your army and probably outnumbered by the females in the camp followers.

And I suggest that you make the majority of your female warriors or soldiers bow maidens instead of shield maidens, who fight the enemy at a distance instead of face to face. And to compensate for their inferior arm strength, some of the female archers could be equipped with crossbows they draw with their legs, or hand cranked crossbows. Or maybe you could invent repeating ballistae that have magazines of bolts that drop a bolt into the slider whenever the slider is drawn back. And instead of hand cranks to pull back the sliders the women could operate foot cranks like in a stationary bike.

And maybe a minority of your female warriors or soldiers could be shield maidens who fight face to face with their enemies with shields, spears, and swords. Your model for them might be the Dahomey Amazons. There were between 1,000 and 6,000 at a time in the mid 19th century. So if there are two to four female archers for every "Amazon" there would be 3,000 to 24,000 female warriors in your kingdom's entire army. And if there are two to four male warriors for every female warrior your kingdom's entire army would number 9,000 to 120,000 men and women (including some boys and girls). And if the civilian camp followers, including women and children, are between half and four times as numerous as the warriors or soldiers, the kingdom's camp followers would total 4,500 to 480,000 men, women, and children.

Of course, a field army on a campaign would be only a part of the kingdom's total army.

And of course, you can play around with those figures and multiply or divide to get a plausible small European field army of the middle ages or a vast medieval field army of a mighty Asian Empire.


OK, just to state some realism...

  • In the year 1340 the estimated population of London was 50,000. Your army is twice that size. With medieval technology, you need to supply the army while marching and during siege. During the U.S. Civil War, a 100,000 man marching army would be a column 10-20 miles long with a following wagon train of approximately 1,000 wagons. (And that's with 1800s tech.) The logistics of supplying this army during the time period (a time when armies were often defined by the hundreds of men and a 5,000 man army was massive and brought thoughts of the apocalypse) verges on the unbelievable. The cost to support this army would likely bankrupt a nation.

  • While medieval women saw combat, most were individual cases. It doesn't appear there's much evidence that women served in great numbers at all.

  • Any woman with the strength and tenacity to fight toe-to-toe with anybody during the medieval era probably doesn't need protecting and automatically has my vote for President.

  • At that time you have no mass-produced prophylactics of any kind. Indeed, you really had no mass production of any kind at the time.

So, let's ignore everything and just answer the question on its merits. How do you do it?

  1. March them to within an inch of their lives. Leave them no time nor energy in the evening for hanky-panky.

  2. When they're not marching, you drill them. Drill, drill, drill.

  3. You indoctrinate them with a religious fervor rarely seen among humanity that the cause they're fighting for is so great that the sacrifice of personal indulgences is a price well worth paying. Make sure you reward loyalty with regular medals and commendations to underscore the value of that sacrifice.

  4. Brute punishment also never works as a deterrent, but you could also put the pregnant women to work with the cooks. They can't fight, but they can't leave, either. If the father can be identified, he becomes someone else's squire and loses rank and privilege.

And then you hope like crazy because the human sex drive is really hard to shut off and no one yet has come up with a way to effectively convince teens/young adults to wait (and probably never will).


I assume castrating all the males is a bit too radical? And contraception is not an option? So we have to take a hard way:

Separate camps for different genders. Only officers can cross over, and only while escorted by multiple hosting officers.

Severely punish those caught in the wrong camp, along with everybody in the same tent, or same squad. For males, castration (with glowing hot pliers). Not sure about females, maybe amputate one breast? Forced abortion for pregnancy. All done publicly and brutally, to deter others. And demotion to cook or prostitute. The sex drive is an instinct, and you need to counter it with another instinct: fear.

Reward those who report violations. Punish those who could report but didn't. So you basically have people racing to report. This is bad for morale, though.

Have prostitutes, both male and female. I believe you can castrate males in a way that they can still maintain an erection, and enjoy sex, but cannot impregnate. Or provide female prostitutes with dildos.

An ideology or religion is a good idea. A fellow soldier is your sibling in Arms (or in Christ), and you do not **** with your siblings. For women, can introduce Amazon-style ideology that only weaklings let males use them.

Have deferred marriage, i.e. the pair committed to each other, but cannot sleep together until the campaign is over, or one of them is promoted to officer. This way there is hope for "true love".

PS. Gengiz Khan did have more than 100,000 warriors in his empire:
But I doubt he ever had them all in one place. And they all knew how to forage.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ :-) It's called a vasectomy. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 14 '18 at 3:43


Transgender people have been around since, well, history, maybe even before. So a medieval society may possibly embrace them.

If all your shieldmaidens are trans women rather than cis women, pregnancy will not be an issue.

And vice-versa. If all the non-shieldmaidens are trans men, they will not get the shieldmaidens pregnant either.

  • $\begingroup$ Since this is a fantasy world it can have population with a high transgender ratio. Actually as high as you want.Tolkien would be shocked. He was a gentle enough soul. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 14 '18 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for trans shield maidens! $\endgroup$ – Sasha Jul 15 '18 at 0:28

Ritualised Erotic Play.

Your soldiers want to have sex with each other and (presumably) don't want anyone getting pregnant. Embrace that fact. Pair them up and make sex a compulsory part of the work day.

Every morning before breakfast and every evening after dinner your soldiers fall into formation and perform oral or manual sex on each other. They release their sexual energy in a controlled and supervised manner.

There is no shame attached to this ritual. However vaginal penetration is forbidden. It is seen as unpatriotic as a pregnant woman is one less soldier fighting for the mother/fatherland.

Since everyone is having loads of sexy sex on a daily basis there is no need to sneak around behind their superiors' backs.

As a side note bisexual or homosexual soldiers should fit seamlessly into this system. They are still not allowed to sex each other outside of the designated sexing times. But having a same-sex partner might even be encouraged.


With the limited amount of information I can only give a limited answer - could you please let us know some more details of your world? Is this world in the grip of feudalism, ala our Europe? Is this an army in the sense of being one solid body of troops doing one thing, or is this the entire armed forces of your nation? You should probably also pick a century at least - medieval is too broad. Why does this army have a substantial number of women? Is your society highly urbanized, with a good currency based economy? How big is your nation? These are all going to inform a proper answer.

But here goes - first problem

Army Size

If your nation is made up of nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists... well, problem solved. The entirety of their society could be their army and their logistical train is... them. All they need is space and grass.

Are they attacking an enemy? That also simplifies your logistics, because they can kill their enemy and steal their stuff. It's called foraging. That's how many armies functioned - it even works on your own people if they are oppressed enough!

As I said earlier, distribute them to lessen the impact - ten columns of ten thousand troops marching parallel will be easier to manage, also how these things were done back when.

Rivers/Coastlines - ships or barges can move food and supplies easier, so your forces could hug waterlines while moving/ bivouacking.

Just remember that even in a highly militarized society you need logistics - anywhere from one to three civilians following your combat soldiers just to get daily stuff done, plus guys to move all your supplies to the army itself. This can be done, but keep it in mind.

Here's a good write up on logistics and army sizes


Reproductive Issues

Thornier problem. Any answers would mitigate, not prevent, but I'd go with strong religious indoctrination as JBH previously mentioned.

Castration is out, I presume?



This is fantasy, so solve it with magic!

I mean, mages are commonly depicted shooting balls of fire, raising the dead, and many other acts that defy the very laws of nature, so why not have some form of magical contraceptive?

It would depend a lot on the level of magic you have around the setting, but you could have priests offering blessings that would make a soldier infertile for some time or even alchemists creating potions that would work better than moderm contraceptives.


The text of your question merely asks for preventing pregnancies, while the title suggests celibacy.

Enforce celibacy

  • Harsh punishment for all involved
  • Separate the men from the shield-maiden

Avoiding pregnancies

  • Punish shield-maidens, who become pregnant while with the army
  • Have prostitutes accompany your army, so the male soldiers can have sex. The shield-maidens should have motivation enough to remain non-pregnant, so they can participate in the fighting.
  • As a bonus, for your shield-maidens, bring castrated, male prostitutes along.

Put soldiers into cryogenic stasis until battle starts. Oh, wait, you said medieval times. I think you’re screwed (pun intended). The only medicinal approach I could find was “chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus).” Describes as: known as “monk’s pepper” and was purportedly used to dampen libido in the Middle Ages. Modern science has not done any rigorous studies that I could find to verify this claim. For your story, you could just assert that the claim is true.

  • $\begingroup$ Here's a relevant story from today about the difficulty of limiting teen libidos. It is talking about access to porn and how Internet filters showed zero effect in limiting porn access because teens just figured ways around the block. It's a primary human drive and they will put a LOT of brainpower into solving the issue. yro.slashdot.org/story/18/07/13/2157223/… $\endgroup$ – SRM Jul 14 '18 at 13:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.