If you think back to the Victorian era, and immediately think of a time when sophistication and elegance was the norm, and people acted quite proper and respectful at all times, you’d be right! And sadly, when the Victorian people went back to their homes, and their wives or husbands at the end of the day, that sophistication and respect continued, even in the bedroom. This made for undoubtedly, very boring and very unfulfilled sex lives. During the Victorian era, sex was thought by most, and definitely by the church, to be something that was only for the purpose of procreation, and things such as masturbation and homosexuality were seen as either sinful or a sign of illness.
Women in the Victorian era especially were thought to only have sex for the purpose of having children. In fact, women were not to have sex until marriage, and when that time came, a potential husband would determine if he wanted to marry her or not by her level of chastity. Even once married though, sex was not supposed to be an enjoyable act and something that was only reserved with the purpose of procreation. Should a married woman want sex for pleasure, it would lower her virtue.
Masturbation was also something that was seen as disgraceful during the Victorian era. Society believed that masturbation was the cause of heart disease, cancer, and hysteria. It was not only thought that masturbating could cause disease, but that it could help a disease that was already present progress and become worse. Even more, the people of the Victorian age also thought that any children born by a person that had masturbated would also suffer from insanity. Masturbation was thought to be so bad that metal devices were worn to cover a person’s genitals to prevent people from masturbating. And, one scientist even went so far as to invent a device that would be worn by sleeping boys and send electric shocks to his penis should it become erect during sleep.
Homosexuality was also thought to be a sin, although it wasn’t thought that it was the result of any disease or sickness. It was also thought that it was only men who succumbed to sexual acts with people of the same sex because, as Queen Victoria put it, “Ladies would never engage in such despicable acts!” After 1860, it was thought that not only was homosexuality a sin, but whoever took part in homosexual acts was also a pervert and a social deviant.
Prostitution really shows just how sexist the views of the Victorian era were. Most young women didn’t choose prostitution as a way of life, but instead were forced into it in order to make money for their families. Still, the people of the Victorian era considered prostitution to be one of the most despicable acts a woman could engage in, even though many times she had no choice in the matter. This time was when the word “whore” became a common way to describe a prostitute although “Magdalene” was also often used. However, even though entering into prostitution would cast a girl out of the good graces of society, it was not considered sinful or deviant for a man to engage in sexual acts with a woman. This is because it was not considered wrong for a man to engage in sexual acts before marriage, or with the intent of anything else besides procreation.
There’s no doubt that times have definitely changed during the Victorian era. Thank god that we did away with those horrible electrical devices for penises and that today, with the exception of prostitution, we are free to enjoy good sex, in whatever form we choose, and whenever we choose!