Last night, as the boys and I waited for our movie to start, we browsed in the local bookstore and I found this gem! It was a book written by the wife of a Reverend, Ruth Smythers, called ‘Sex Tips for Husbands & Wives’ from 1894. I will put some direct quotes in here, as the language is just hilariously pompous, obviously written as a guide for young brides to understand that sex is only for procreation and anything else is not allowed.
In some ways, there are many attributes to our married sex lives that still exist, in other ways, it’s a little scary how male dominated ‘the urges’ were. However, you do have to realise that it is written by a Reverend’s wife, a person who by her pure Faith in God and Jesus, would never have sex unless it was to pro-create.
The book first starts out talking about the wedding day, how it can be “both the happiest and the most terrifying day” of a young bride’s life. Happy because she has secured herself a husband who will look after her for the rest of her life, terrifying, as she has to face “for the first time the terrible experience of sex.”
She states that there is one cardinal rule in marriage: “Give little, give seldom and above all, give grudgingly.”As if it was anything else, it would become an “orgy of sexual lust.”
Smythers then suggests that “sex is at best revolting and at worst rather painful… it has to be endured, and has been by women since the beginning of time, and is compensated for by the monogamous home and by the children produced through it.”
She then explains the slow process of expectations of sex. That once married, a husband will expect to have sex everyday but you should only, at best, allow a ‘brief session’ no more than twice a week for the first few months of wedded life. Then, a wife’s best friend are faked illnesses, such as a headache, illness and sleepiness. But even better, is to start an argument about an hour before your husband’s nightly urges take place! By the end of the first year, you shouldn’t be having sex more than once a week, by the end of five years once a month, and your procreating should be finished within the first ten years of your marriage, so your ultimate goal should be terminating all sexual intercourse by your tenth anniversary. “By this time she can depend upon his love for the children and social pressures to hold the husband at home.” WOW! So is Mrs Smythers suggesting that women blackmail their husbands to stay within their marriage to provide for them by giving them children and holding everything that makes them feel good about themselves against them by destroying their social reputation if for a minute they think outside their marriage? Not much has changed sadly, has it?
She talked about other ‘revolting practices’ including the ‘mouthing of the female body,’ ensuring that your husband never saw you unclothed and to wear heavy nightgowns to bed to ensure it was hard to create the sexual act, if you have to have sex make sure it’s in total darkness, and if he does try to initiate the act, she should quickly spring out of bed and announce that she needs to go to the bathroom. She even suggests that a husband will try to seduce a wife by talking amorously and that a wife should tell him that he doesn’t need to persuade her with the talk, and just to get on with it, as not to prolong the event.
She suggests that the wife must be silent through the act, or babble about housework while he is “huffing and puffing away.” And that she should lie perfectly still and never “grunt or groan while the act is in progress.”
Smythers then suggests that after the act, the wife must point out a few tasks that she expects him to do in the morning. Blackmail again!! Was marriage a game even back then? There doesn’t seem to be any mutuality, does there?
As a religious wife, the book ends to suggest that a wife should be thankful that the husband’s home, school, church and community have been working together all through his life to instill in him a deep sense of guilt regarding his sexual urges… so that he comes home apologetically and filled with shame for any of his sexual thoughts. And the scary thing is, in many religious homes in the 21st century, wives are still doing this today. Making their husbands half the man they want to be by suppressing their sexual urges, telling them that they aren’t good enough, prancing around showing them what they can’t have and keeping their husbands by their sides as some type of social power trip. It really is a disgrace. And men just aren’t strong enough to see that this is happening to them, and can’t find a way out. You understand now why so many men have affairs to try and feel human again…
I’m sorry, but I just agree with the power trip within a relationship. A relationship is about equality, love, passion and a desire to be together, intimately, as companions and with mutual respect. If in Victorian times in a religious setting, marriage is treated as a game between two people of which the wife ‘won’ someone to provide for her for the rest of her life while belittling her husband, hoping that he would be just happy with offspring, to have social acceptance and to work hard, while she laps it up, I’m sorry, but marriage is an injustice and it saddens me to no end seeing how many men feel so ‘stuck’ in their marriage.
“Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives from 1894” by Ruth Smythers, first published in 1894, reproduced in 2008 by Summersdale Publishers Ptd, UK.