Bloggers and even the mainstream media have been gleefully posting excerpts from Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives from 1894 by “Ruth Smythers” and chortling over the supposed ignorance and prudery of our Victorian Age ancestors. But have they been had? All signs point to this book being just another clever internet hoax. Here’s a sample:
The wise bride will permit a maximum of two brief sexual experiences weekly — and as time goes by she should make every effort to reduce this frequency.
A selfish and sensual husband can easily take advantage of his wife. One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: Give little, give seldom and above all give grudgingly. Otherwise what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust.
A wise wife will make it her goal never to allow her husband to see her unclothed body, and never allow him to display his unclothed body to her.
Once in bed, the wife should turn off all the lights and make no sound to guide her husband in her direction, lest he take this as a sign of encouragement.
When he finds her, she should lie as still as possible. Bodily motion could be interpreted as sexual excitement by the optimistic husband. Sex, when it cannot be prevented, should be practised only in total darkness.
Clever wives are ever on the alert for new and better methods of denying and discouraging the amorous overtures of the husband. Arguments, nagging, scolding and bickering prove very effective if used in the late evening about an hour before the husband would normally commence his seduction.
By their tenth anniversary many wives have managed to complete their child-bearing and have achieved the ultimate goal of terminating all sexual contacts with the husband.
These “sex tips” are often paired with this excerpt from the 2008 book Sex Lives of Wives by Holly Hollenbeck:
Exude tremendous enthusiasm for sex and have it as often as possible. Try never to say no and do not start thinking or talking about other chores or problems during it.
Create variety — make love as a “lady” then next time, play it nasty as a “tramp”. Alternate the pace — sometimes fast and frantic, sometimes slow and romantic, using different sound effects, including sexy compliments breathlessly uttered, pleasurable moans and sighs and nasty encouragements.
Be assertive about what you want, taking care that any ideas do not come across as criticism. Try incorporating what you would like him to do by working the suggestions into the details of a story. Describe how hot such action would make you or your character in the story feel.
Tune in to what he loves and share it with him — if he likes watching sexy movies, suggest watching one together. Visit a bookshop and choose some erotic stories you can read to each other, surf the web with him and share “chats”.
Venture outside the bedroom and seek unusual locations for sex. Have a mental fixation on the sensation — focus only on his and your pleasure.
Know what turns you on — your desire will heighten his. Good things for women to try include having an ear sucked, a foot rub, leaning on a vibrating washing machine during the spin cycle and feeling the spray of a pulsating showerhead.
As Erin Flaherty at Shine puts it, “Damn, looks like you really have come a long way baby.” But have we really? Here’s what the urban legends website Snopes has to say about Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives from 1894.
Anyone tempted to believe this load of codswallop should see me about the swamp land I have for sale. Accept the piece for what it almost certainly is: a lovely bit of humor, playing off the notion that our forefathers lived in dramatically less sexually enlightened times. “Aren’t we so much better off now?” is the message of this piece.
The wording gives it away. Although the use of the word “sex” to indicate the sex act was sort of known in the very late 1800s (it previously had been used only to indicate gender), its use in that form then would have been quite cutting edge. One wonders if a minister’s wife would have thrown it about with such abandon. Surely “conjugal relations” would have been the term of choice.
So, enjoy reading Sex Tips for Husbands and Wives from 1894 , but don’t take it too seriously as a historical document. Every generation seems to believe it invented sex, or at least knows much more about it than previous generations. However, our ancestors weren’t less intelligent than we are simply because they lived before we did. Remember that in 1894, there was no personal income tax, Federal Reserve, or War on Drugs. What do these developments say about the wisdom of modern society compared to the Victorian Age? It may be that our ancestors were just as sexually enlightened as we are, but they just didn’t have the internet to advertised the fact.