Those Victorians Weren’t So Prudish

Historian Fern Ridell would have you know that they enjoyed rather spirited sex lives:

A book called The Art to Begetting Handsome Children, published in 1860, contains a tumblr_mtomnfqdja1qzi9tbo1_500detailed passage on foreplay, and shows us that, for the Victorians, sex, pleasure and love were concepts that were universally tied together. In A Guide To Marriage, published in 1865 by the aptly named Albert Sidebottom, the advice to young couples exploring their relationship for the first time is that “All love between the sexes is based upon sexual passion”. This is something I’ve come across time and again in researching Victorian attitudes to sex: sexual pleasure, and especially female sexual pleasure, really mattered. But we seem incapable of seeing women in the Victorian period as anything other than sexually passive, a gender so disconnected from their bodies that they had to be stimulated by the inventions of men. This just isn’t true. From the erotic life of courtesan Cora Pearl, to the romantic female relationships of Mary Benson, wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Victorian female sexuality was just as expressive and expansive as it is today.

(Cropped image of Victorian porn, via the very NSFW tumblr “Those Naughty Victorians“)