Comparing our current society with that of the Victorian era is a strange undertaking. That period in human history (1837 – 1901) was a progressive one in many ways. There were innumerable advances in the arts and sciences. Oh, and don’t forget about the Industrial Revolution. Plus, the Victorians had a very progressive (albeit creepy) relationship with death.
That being said, in terms of love, sex, and relationships, the Victorians weren’t so progressive. Sex was seldom discussed in public. As such, many popular books of the time gave, or attempted to give, young men and women sex advice for a happy marriage. Some of that advice is just hilariously terrible.
1. Don’t have sex on the stairs.
According to The Victorian Guide to Sex: Desire and Deviance in the 19th Century by Fern Riddell, you should never have sex on the stairs. Here’s the specific advice he offers: “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.” Umm, ok.
2. Orgasms count for conception.
French physiologist Eugene Becklard, MD, wrote a book in the 1850s about the psychology of love and sex. In it are pseudoscientific gems like this: “The party whose temperament predominates in the child was in the highest state of orgasm at the period of intercourse.” Translation? The child will turn out more like the person who had the best orgasm during sex.
3. Cornflakes prevent masturbation.
According to Riddell’s book, J.H. Kellogg, the inventor of cornflakes, intentionally created them to be bland. Kellogg believed that bland food reduced people’s sexual appetites — namely the urge to masturbate in men.
4. If you’re trying to conceive, don’t sneeze.
Riddell’s book also talks about this strict after-sex procedure for women looking to conceive. “At the conclusion of the sexual act,” he says, “the wife must not talk, cough, or sneeze, lest this impede conception.”
5. No lazy sex.
“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.” Translation: Make sure you’re in love with your partner and never have tired sex or your children will be born ugly.
6. Don’t let your husband have sex with you.
Another sex author of the time was Ruth Smythers. Smythers wrote the oddly specific Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride on the Conduct and Procedure of the Intimate and Personal Relationships of the Marriage State for the Greater Spiritual Sanctity of this Blessed Sacrament and the Glory of God in 1894. In it, Smythers advises young brides to give in to their husband’s sexual desires as little as possible. “Give little, give seldom, and above all, give grudgingly,” she explains, “Otherwise what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust.”
7. Sex in the dark is the best.
Smythers suggests that if your husband cannot suppress his urges, it should be done in the dark. This, she suggests, offers more opportunity for him to injure himself trying to find the bed. “When he comes groping into the room, she should make no sound to guide him in her direction, lest he take this as a sign of encouragement. She should let him grope in the dark. There is always the hope that he will stumble and incur some slight injury which she can use as an excuse to deny him sexual access.”
8. Ride a horse to prevent pregnancy.
If you’re not looking to get pregnant, then Becklard recommends “trotting a horse briskly over a rough road on the following day [to] ensure it.” He says that dancing wildly around the room after sex can also do the trick.
9. Be careful when you orgasm.
Victorian women had a unique right during this time known as “mutual adjustment.” This means that they had a right to refuse sex with their husband if his orgasm was not perfectly timed with hers.
10. Watch the wind.
Riddell says that Victorian children varied in temperament depending on which way the wind was blowing that day. Children “begat when the wind is blowing from the north” will turn out stronger than those conceived during an easterly wind. Translation: if you want strong children, buy a weathervane.
I used to think I might have enjoyed living during the Victorian era, but after reading these sex tips, I’m not too sure. Some of these sound like they were just made up on the fly. I mean, seriously, what does the direction of the wind have to do with anything?