The Victorian Era

Upon the 1800s, specifically 1837-1901, the strict beliefs of procreation only and gender roles returned.  Women weren’t seen to have sexuality and their role was to service their husbands (Crooks & Baur, 2011).  Women were viewed as not knowing much about sex and having very little desire for it (Platoni, 2010).  These strict views on gender and sex became what we now think of as the Victorian stereotype.

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In the Victorian era, the gender roles were still persistent.  Having sexual desire was identified almost solely with men and women of lower classes, like prostitutes (Degler, 1974). During this time even male doctors were persuaded that women had no sex drive.  When a woman did express sexual desire, it was seen as a disease that needed to be taken care of immediately and with drastic measures – like removing the sex organs (Degler, 1974).  Sexual desire was thought to be a quality that only men should have in this time period (Degler, 1974).

In 1894, Ruth Smythers published a book in the Victorian era called Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives from 1894.  She wrote guidelines for about how newlywed women should “endure” sex (White, 2008). Some of her tips include:

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  • “THE wise bride will permit a maximum of two brief sexual experiences weekly — and as time goes by she should make every effort to reduce this frequency.  Feigned illness, sleepiness and headaches are among her best friends in this matter.”
  • “A SELFISH and sensual husband can easily take advantage of his wife. One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: Give little, give seldom and above all give grudgingly. Otherwise what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust.”
  • “A WISE wife will make it her goal never to allow her husband to see her unclothed body, and never allow him to display his unclothed body to her.”
  • “MANY women have found it useful to have thick cotton nightgowns for themselves and pajamas for their husbands — they need not be removed during the sex act. Thus, a minimum of flesh is exposed.”
  • “WHEN he finds her, she should lie as still as possible. Bodily motion could be interpreted as sexual excitement by the optimistic husband. Sex, when it cannot be prevented, should be practiced only in total darkness.”
  • “IF he attempts to kiss her on the lips she should turn her head slightly so that the kiss falls harmlessly on her cheek instead. If he lifts her gown and attempts to kiss her any place else she should quickly pull the gown back in place, spring from the bed, and announce that nature calls her to the toilet.”
  • “ARGUMENTS, nagging, scolding and bickering prove very effective if used in the late evening about an hour before the husband would normally commence his seduction.”

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