Adults Only.

18+ Minors Click Here

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 3

The Age of Enlightenment and the Invention of Pornography


“The best mothers, wives, and managers of households know little or nothing of sexual indulgences…. As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself. She submits to her husband, but only to please him.”

Dr. William Acton, 1875

Aren’t you glad you don’t live in the late 1800′s?

There’s a Victorian Wall between now and the vast majority of human history, at least it pertains to Western conceptions of female libido. So, how’d we get here?

Science and economics.

Sexy, right?

He's got a hunger for knowledge.

He’s got a hunger for knowledge.

Economics, or “The Money is in the Cure”

Somewhere around the time that men of education decide that “all men are created equal,” ditching part of the feudal notion of the “great chain of being,” they “discover” that women aren’t actually deflated-balloon un-men.

They subsequently decide that women are pretty much a whole different species. Actually, they decide that anything that isn’t a European Dude is another species. That way they only have to apply that “being equal” business to a fairly small subset of the population.

Convenient, right?

So, at the beginning of the 1800′s, after all that Enlightenment materialist thinking, with people being equal and women in New Jersey voting, and a good chunk of France just going batshit insane, there’s a backlash.  Because, that’s how humans work.  And, it’s a backlash that occurs during an economic revolution–women running about willy-nilly, working in factories, going into indentured contracts and moving out into colonies.

When you’ve got an agricultural/artisan economy, most people live and work at home.  Your women may be lusty, but you’ve got them trapped, more or less–they’re at home and under your watch.

In an industrial economy dependent on Imperial connections, people move around more.  The more people moved around, the shriller the “scientific” voices became about the amazing shrinking female libido.

During the same period, male masturbation becomes a disease because someone wanted to sell the cure.

The first use of the word “onanism” to consistently and specifically refer to masturbation appears to be Onania, an anonymous pamphlet first distributed in London in 1716. It drew on familiar themes of sin and vice, this time in particular against the “heinous sin” of “self-pollution”. After dire warnings that those who so indulged would suffer impotence, gonorrhea, epilepsy and a wasting of the faculties (included were letters and testimonials supposedly from young men ill and dying from the effects of compulsive masturbation) the pamphlet then goes on to recommend as an effective remedy a “Strengthening Tincture” at 10 shillings a bottle and a “Prolific Powder” at 12 shillings a bag, available from a local shop.

By the 1770′s, it had morphed into medical fact, complete with a celebrity doctor. Pamphlets like memes.

Science. Ladies love it.



If you repeat something often enough, people believe you.

Irony: the same 19th doctors that insisted that “normal” women didn’t like sex prescribed therapeutic “paroxysms” to relieve the symptoms of “Hysteria.”  They also ordered clitorectomies to prevent female masturbation.  For creatures that can’t orgasm.

The logic appears to be that “orgasm” only happens during sex, exclusively meaning Penis In Vagina, and it requires ejaculation. Therefore medical “paroxysm” isn’t an actual orgasm. It’s… something else.

Mind you, it’s something that’s occasionally described in sexual literature–there’s Victorian erotica out there. For some mysterious reason, the non-existent female orgasm is still being faked by prostitutes in some places.

This is where people start waxing their Foucault pole.

Yes. A Foucault pole is a real thing. And it requires waxing. I said so.  So there.

It’s not like sex just went away for 100 years.

For one, you’ve got plenty of acceptably dirty poetry, poets being the daring rock stars of the era.  You’ve got erotic, even kinky, stories and novels.

They invented the word pornography. It entered Webster’s dictionary in 1864.  Laws banning obscenity began in 1857 in the UK.  The discovery of all the smut at Pompeii was something of a scandal.  As soon as we could take pictures?  We took sexy pictures. As soon as we had film?  We filmed sexy ladies.

The fifth domestic appliance that received an American patent?  Hamilton Beach’s electric vibrator in 1902.

By 1905 at least one Esteemed Man of Education referred to a “clitoral orgasm.”

Guess who?


To be continued…

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 1
The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 2

The Female Orgasm: A Brief History, Part 4

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Trackbacks

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes