But it was also complicated for women who loved other women
While there are many people who like to think of the “butch” warrior lesbian Viking, we’re afraid to tell you that we don’t have any documentation of these figures. There is no mention of lesbianism in the sagas. Though many scholars believe that it was a fairly common practice among married women. Nor are there any references in other Old Norse texts to female on female relationships, so we cannot gauge pre-Christian attitudes to female homosexuality. However, Icelandic Christian law suggests lesbianism did occur in Norse society. In the 12th century, Bishop Porlakr Porhallson decreed “if women satisfy each other they shall be ordered the same penance as men who perform the most hideous adultery between them or with a quadruped.” So there was an obvious distaste and intolerance on it in later Viking culture.
Christie Ward, an independent scholar and expert in Norse mythology pointed out that many Vikings used to have relationships with multiple women. A Viking married one woman, but created a harem-like structure in his own house, having concubines from inferior social classes. A Viking’s wife then could develop a bond with other women under her roof. A bond which involved intercourse in many instances. There was a high tolerance for these types of relationships. A Viking’s wife, in fact, was more independent if compared to women in other societies of the time. She was in charge of the house from a financial point of view and could even decide to divorce her husband. There are also indications that Vikings practiced polygamy, which in their highly stratified society would have meant that poorer unmarried men might have had limited access to women, and would have targeted female slaves as concubines (or even wives).
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: