The Victorian Joy of Sex: Prudish? Far from it

April 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

  • Book has many bits of advice from the Victorian era to make sex ‘better’
  • Includes advice for how to get closer, or more successfully have children
  • A lot of the advice is based around conceiving attractive children

By
Lucy Pearce

16:40 EST, 11 April 2014


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03:43 EST, 12 April 2014

‘The natural state of reproduction requires a state of utter and complete frankness that must be observed between the married pair,’ suggested one contemporary writer.

‘There must be no private reserves on the wedding night, and each one must allow their soul to be as open as their arms.’

Other relationship-enhancing tips included the advice that passion is increased by time spent apart, and that even decent women should use a little rouge, enamel or powder, plus some ‘pencilling of the eyebrows and darkening stuff for the lids’.

German vintage postcard from 1909, showing a loving couple kissing at piano - people of the Victorian era might have been a lot more 'sexually minded' than we previously thought

German vintage postcard from 1909, showing a loving couple kissing at piano – people of the Victorian era might have been a lot more ‘sexually minded’ than we previously thought

Those with small breasts were advised that a little judicious padding might not go amiss — with the proviso that if they began this deception with a suitor before marriage, they should be prepared for him to be disappointed on the wedding night.

Like their 21st-century counterparts, Victorian commentators worried about the legalisation of the sex industry, the ethics and availability of contraception and the horrors of human trafficking and child prostitution.

But, writes Riddell, if the 19th century abounded with attitudes that we can readily identify with, our forebears also espoused many ideas that now seem utterly alien.

Among the most significant of these, she suggests, is the Victorian fear of the dangers involved with what they euphemistically called the practice of ‘the solitary vice’.

The Swiss neurologist Samuel-Auguste Tissot had published his influential L’Onanisme in 1760, in which he suggested that the consequences of masturbation included insanity or even death.

A commonly held belief during the Victorian era was that a woman could become pregnant only if she experienced an orgasm at the same time as her lover

A commonly held belief during the Victorian era was that a woman could become pregnant only if she experienced an orgasm at the same time as her lover

More than 100 years later, Tissot’s theories were still widely believed, with the fear of ‘the solitary vice’ dominating Victorian marriage guides and advice on morals and manners.

One well-known author on the subject was J. H. Kellogg, creator of the cornflake.

Those tempted to indulge, it was suggested, should avoid mustard, pepper, rich gravy, beer, wine, cider and tobacco, all of which created a craving for sensual gratification.

Rather than risk the consequences of ‘the solitary vice’, those in possession of 100 guineas could purchase a ‘femme de voyage’ or inflatable sex aid, for the ‘special use of gentlemen on their travels’.

These ingenious contraptions could be packed up and stored under a gentleman’s hat, and were also ‘a highly successful alternative to those who fear contamination or pollution from illicit acts with questionable lovers’.

Another commonly held and erroneous belief was the notion that a woman could become pregnant only if she experienced an orgasm at the same time as her lover.

Without this, the female seed could not be released and no child would be formed in her womb.

Furthermore, at the conclusion of the sexual act, the wife must not talk, cough or sneeze, lest this impede conception.

Old texts said that those looking to have children should remember that 'sex must not be faintly or drowsily performed'

Old texts said that those looking to have children should remember that ‘sex must not be faintly or drowsily performed’

In 1845, the French physician Eugene Becklard, in his book Physiological Mysteries And Revelations In Love, Courtship And Marriage: An Infallible Guide-book For Married And Single Persons, In Matters Of The Utmost Importance To The Human Race, took this argument to its supposed logical conclusion and argued that since the ‘fecundating principle’ would not enter the womb unless a woman craved it do so, ‘a rape can never be productive of real offspring’.

He also propounded the view that ‘the party, whose temperament predominates in the child, was in the highest state of orgasm at the period of intercourse’.

Crucially, any union without true love, according to the manuals of the day, would bring forth ‘ill-looking, sour and spiritless offspring’, while those hoping for good-looking children should remember that sex must not be ‘faintly or drowsily performed’.

Intriguingly, though, babies conceived during the daytime often turned out both ‘fine and handsome’.

Conversely, women were cautioned that ‘a child that was begat upon a set of stair is most likely to be born with a crooked back and given in no small way to the fault of staring’.

And if the husband was unfaithful, children he sired were likely to be ‘weak and wretched’ and grow up unhappy.

As if all this weren’t enough for the beleaguered Victorian matron to take in, further gems of advice unearthed by Riddell’s researches include the suggestion that children who were conceived in spring and summer could be expected to have darker complexions than those conceived in autumn and winter.

Similarly, children ‘begat when the wind is blowing from the north’ would tend to be stronger than those conceived during an easterly wind.

An illegitimate child, on the other hand, would be full of ‘fire and energy’.

Despite popular depictions of 'subservient' women in the Victorian era, the century was full of strong, energetic women excelling in the fields of literary and scientific endeavour, or campaigning to improve conditions for their sex

Despite popular depictions of ‘subservient’ women in the Victorian era, the century was full of strong, energetic women excelling in the fields of literary and scientific endeavour, or campaigning to improve conditions for their sex

This was evidence (albeit hypocritical in view of the Victorians’ moral code) of the passions which engulfed its parents at the time of conception.

On the subject of choosing a partner, a wealth of advice — some of it downright bizarre — was available to young men and women of the period.

No man, for example, should marry a woman with a nose similar to his own. Women with Roman, or hooked, noses should not marry at all — or else find a small-nosed husband.

Not only this, but potential suitors should remember to check skin tone, body shape, chin, height and size of feet.

A broad and square chin was thought to be indicative of a jealous nature, while a long chin proved grace and humility.

Big-footed men and women, although awkward on first meeting, made the most reliable partners, while small-footed people were deemed prone to reckless gaiety.

The plump were renowned for their affable and easy nature. Those with sharp and angular forms were energetic and earnest and prone to find fault with the indolence of others.

Tall people were thought to have the most self-control, while short people were the opposite, hence their frequent appearance in riotous mobs.

Gentlemen were advised that the easiest way to choose their future intended was to be guided by the shape of her legs. Sturdy legs with a neat ankle were thought the most suitable for a man who wanted an intellectual companion.

Heavy legs and coarse shoes were regarded as indicative of a coarse nature, while thin yet muscular pins were best for a gentleman who wanted his home run with military precision.

Once marriage was finally in prospect, couples were counselled to bear in mind that a warm climate made people feel sexier — an important factor when planning the honeymoon, or wedding tour.

Later, however, when the stresses and strains of family life began to show, gentlemen were reminded by one author that ‘hysterical wives or children should be laid on a waterproof sheet on the floor and doused with a jug of cold water.’

The idea of such dominant men and submissive wives is, on the whole, suggests Riddell, not a representative one. In reality, she says, the century was full of strong, energetic women excelling in the fields of literary and scientific endeavour, or campaigning to improve conditions for their sex.

While much of the advice given out at the time was misguided and inaccurate, the 19th-century tenets of true love, respect and mutual physical pleasure are, she believes, as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.

And for their timeless and illuminating advice on how to conduct a successful sexual relationship — along with a wealth of architecture, engineering, art and literature — we have a lot to thank the Victorians for.

The Victorian Guide To Sex: Desire And Deviance In The 19th Century by Fern Riddell is published in May by Pen Sword at £12.99. To order a copy at £11.49 (pp free), call 0844 472 4157.


Comments (56)

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British Exile,

Sogod Philippines,

moments ago

The postcard dated 1909? The Victorian era ended in 1901.

ANYWAYUP-69,

dingwall, United Kingdom,

17 minutes ago

Ah ! Now that’s when women were built more for comfort than for speed !

John,

Kodiak, United States,

1 hour ago

Can you imagine being in a circle of friends when your hat gets knocked off and your sex toy rolls out? Seriously tho, yes, our forefathers and mothers had sex, shocking as it is. The difference today is that we think and talk about it so endlessly that many have nothing else in their tiny brains.

tastybird,

peckham, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

the biggest problem in those days is the birds very rarely bathed,add to that fact all the layers of clothes they wore and in the heat of summer……..well this would be totally unbearable for the gentlemen of the time,it would defo put me right off having a go……………fact.

Happyexpat,

WestVa, United States,

1 hour ago

…the men bathed no more than the women.Especially in winter.

Val,

Wales,

57 minutes ago

As everyone smelled of BO in those days it probably wasn’t as noticeable. One of the greatest advertising achievements was selling deodorants because the buyer would have to acknowledge they smelled in the first place.

Daily BileOnline,

Second star on the right., United Kingdom,

2 hours ago

It’s Swiss, what do you expect? They invented the bukake.

KeithS,

Cheltenham, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

How do you know that? Sources please

Wee Scone,

on your screen,

1 hour ago

It is Japanese.

yve,

UK, United Kingdom,

3 hours ago

Hmm…straight into the arms of the local gamekeeper for me then…

Patrick J,

Leitrim,

3 hours ago

Maybe they had it right..make it so naughty and bad that it is much more fun.

Mark,

London, United Kingdom,

3 hours ago

Proper boilers back in those days.

The Contusie,

Up A Country, United Kingdom,

3 hours ago

the padded breasts leading to disappointment line is so true, even bigger women still pad them out bigger

Minnie the Minx,

Edinburgh, United Kingdom,

3 hours ago

Well we don’t know what a man has to offer until he drops his kegs lol.

Cokatu,

The Midlands,

3 hours ago

The Victorians were never prudish. Queen Victoria married as a virgin, and expected the same of her children and the rest of society. She was held up to be the epitome of what a ‘good’ woman should be. Statistics show however, that half of women that married in Victorian times were already pregnant.

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