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Upside Down

I am 27 years old and still a virgin; I don’t think I know much about sex, except in theory.  I have a crush on a former Facebook friend’s boyfriend; he flirts with me sometimes, calling me “darling” and saying I’m “sexy” and “pretty”.  We have not met in person yet, because he’s Canadian and I’m a Hindustani living in South Africa, but he recently sent me a picture of his penis and told me he’s about 19 cm long, and that scares me.  Is sex painful the first time?  I kind of dread ever having to have it in real life; I’d much rather just fantasize about it.  However, I really love this boy; I dream about him all the time, and I wish he would bring me to Canada, marry me and give me a baby so we can live happily ever after.  He’s younger than me (only 21) but very mature for his age; he really is my dream man!  But I don’t know where I really stand with him; it seems like he only talks to me when he’s bored, and he punishes me by ignoring me when I make him upset.  I’d really like to know what you think about online relationships; I value your opinion very much since you’re so sexually experienced.

I wish I could tell you that sex isn’t painful the first time, but it very often is and every factor you’ve mentioned – his size, his (much too young) age, your (advanced for a virgin) age, your inexperience and your fear – will tend to exacerbate that.  So will the fact that he is NOT, despite what you think, mature for his age; punishing love-interests by ignoring them or just using them to alleviate boredom are NOT the marks of a mature or caring man, and frankly neither is sending out dick pics to women he isn’t actually involved with.  I know that you won’t believe me when I tell you that you aren’t in love with him; you’re infatuated  with him, which is a horse of a different color.  You aren’t especially drawn to this man for his personality or self, but because he pays attention to you, and for a woman who hasn’t had that kind of attention often enough, it can be extremely intoxicating and judgment-eroding.  I’m not saying relationships that start on the internet can’t work because I know some that have, but I am  saying that such relationships involve many difficulties that you, inexperienced as you are, are unlikely to handle well.  My suggestion is that you open yourself to meeting men locally in whatever way is acceptable in your culture; you still might fall in love too quickly and end up with a man who treats you badly, but if that happens you’ll at least be close to friends and family rather than stranded on another continent with a man you’re completely dependent upon.  Ironically, you’re afraid of the part – the physical sex act – that is really no big deal, yet ready to rush pell-mell into the part – marriage and childbirth – which can really get you badly hurt or even killed.  Sure, first-time sex can hurt; in fact, ten-thousandth time sex can hurt, and since my vagina is quite small I experience pain nearly every time I have sex with an unusually large or rough partner.  Sometimes it’s even a lot of pain.  But physical pain is transitory and, unless severe and chronic, doesn’t really have much effect on one’s life.  Emotional pain, by contrast, can be both devastating and have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.  I suggest you re-examine your priorities, try not to dwell on fear or simple physical pain, and instead think long and hard about the real and profound danger of severe emotional and spiritual (and sometimes physical) pain that accompanies a bad, hastily-made marriage to a poorly-chosen man.

(This question originally appeared in the form of a comment on a very old post, “All Shapes and Sizes”; some of you may find it interesting to compare the original with the edited version, and understand that this is typical of the way in which I prepare questions for publication.  One difference: I usually leave out location, but since this lady already shared it in the comments it seemed pointless to leave it out here.)

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

If [rescuers]…used my photo in websites, smiling, showing me sewing clothes I couldn’t even afford, I would want someone to at least say, “Yeah, that is bullshit.”  –  Sarah Miller

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

TANSTAAFL:

The police chief in Miami Gardens has been fired after he was arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution…Stephen Johnson was [caught in a sting after buying the absurd claim that]…the price for…two women would be $100 for 30 minutes…

Feminine Pragmatism 

More than 70% of UK sex workers have previously worked in healthcare, education or charities, while more than a third hold university degrees, according to one of the largest surveys of the industry ever undertaken…The second most common former area of employment was retail, with…33.7%…38% [had an undergraduate degree]…while…17%…had a postgraduate degree…The Leeds University study [was] carried out by Dr Teela Sanders in partnership with National Ugly Mugs…

Down Under

A man who became obsessed with a prostitute and launched a rash of lawsuits against her…has had his case shot down in the Supreme Court [of New Zealand].  The client and the sex worker were in an “arrangement” that turned sour some three years ago…when the Auckland woman [realized] her client was stalking her…

The Sky is Falling!

Any gap between a country’s sex work laws and total decriminalization gives the cops room for a campaign of persecution against sexual behavior:

A popular “sugar daddy” dating website that links young women with wealthy older men…may break sex work laws, [Austalian] police have [bloviated]…In Victoria escorts must be registered, and in South Australia it is illegal to pay…for sex…South Australia Police [pretend to be concerned about “dangerous situations”, and]…Victoria Police [threatened to “look] at [the sites] closely”…

Profit from Panic Punjammies

The rescue industry is getting so absurd, even Jezebel can see it:

…Punjammies is just one of many companies selling goods made by former sex slaves.  There’s also the Nomi Network—their tagline is “Buy Her Bag Not Her Body,” a deployment of rhetoric implying she’s going to have to sell one or the other, and she is dependent on your choice to seal her fate.  There’s Purpose Jewelry, “handcrafted by survivors of modern day slavery… each jewelry tag is hand-signed by the girl who created it.”  There’s JC Denim, “handcrafted by girls who have been rescued out of sex slavery.”  One more—just for the pun—a soap brand, Trades of Hope made by women who “have made a clean break from their previous lifestyle in the sex trade…”  Punjammie fans…are proud of the work they’re doing by buying and wearing Punjammies.  You see a lot of words and phrases like empower, good deed, and making a difference

Broken Record

There’s something especially funny about Sweden picking this up while the rest of the West is admitting it’s hokum:

The Ski World Cup in Sweden has been a worldwide party…But behind the scenes police have been battling a rise in prostitution…“The phenomenon is bigger than we think, there are large hidden numbers” [said a trained police parrot]…”We have received information…that this…is…a…bigger problem during the World Cup than…normal…”

The End of the Beginning

the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the residence restrictions automatically imposed on sex offenders by state law are unconstitutional…the law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, without regard to the nature of the crimes they committed or the threat they currently pose…the 2,000-foot rule excludes 97 percent of the land zoned for multifamily housing in San Diego County…residence restrictions…often apply even if an offender’s crime had nothing to do with children, [and] can be so extensive that entire cities are effectively off limits…

Vendetta

You may not be able to spot it for all the cop-worship and badge-licking, so I’ll help you: “The CEASE Network” is just another front for Swanee Hunt’s “Demand Abolition” pogrom-funding program:  “CEASE, an acronym for Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation, got its official start in Boston, Denver and Seattle earlier this year, with seven more cities — including Portland, Chicago and Phoenix — set to launch their own initiatives later this month…”  This article is several months old, but I think it’s important to track the growth of this private war conducted to please the bloodlust of a morally-warped multi-billionaire.

An Example To the West (#343)

A Bangkok Post article from the director of EMPOWER:

Every year without fail for over a decade, Thailand has been scolded by the United States for not doing enough to comply with US anti-trafficking and border control policies in its annual Trafficking in Persons report…To show that Thailand is doing its job to tackle human trafficking in the sex industry, every year a few hundred migrants, mostly young women, are rounded up, detained and deported as victims…It will never be possible to use harsh laws and punishment to stop people moving across borders for better lives…

Not Good Enough

I honestly have to wonder if Emily Nagoski hasn’t been reading me:

…Flibanserin…is a drug intended to treat low sexual desire in women.  The F.D.A. has rejected it twice already, and will most likely reject it a third time…the drug…is…attempting to treat something that isn’t a disease…The previous model, originating in the late ’70s…placed sexual desire first, as if it were a hunger, motivating an individual to pursue satisfaction.  Desire was conceptualized as emerging more or less “spontaneously.”  And some people do feel they experience desire that way.  Desire first, then arousal.  But…many people (perhaps especially women)…experience desire as…emerging in response to, rather than in anticipation of, erotic stimulation.  Arousal first, then desire…What these women need is not medical treatment, but a thoughtful exploration of what creates desire between them and their partners…Feeling judged or broken for their sexuality is exactly what they don’t need — and what will make their desire for sex genuinely shut down…

Worse Than I Thought (Traffic Updates) IM propaganda

The fetish for posting silly “sex trafficking” signs in stigmatized businesses has been growing for a while now, but this the first time I’ve seen magic powers attributed to the placards:

Lawmakers are introducing a new bill…[which “creates signs to free sex slaves”] across Florida.  The bill would require new signs that tell victims how to get…rescued [from] truck stops, massage parlors, and other places where human trafficking victims are forced into sex slavery…

Another Fine Mess

Yet another edition of “OMG WHORES KNOW HOW TO USE THE INTERNET!!!!

…Pornography…spurred the adoption of…VHS tapes, interactive CDs and DVDs, and pretty much the entire Internet.  Now it’s coming to your smartphone in a whole new way, thanks to…Snapchat…the service unveiled a feature called Snapcash, which allows people to send money using Square…Strippers and porn stars have started to use Snapchat to send videos and photos of themselves naked for a small fee…Snapchat doesn’t leave anything in your search history.  There’s no trace of it to be found by a snooping significant other or an overprotective parent…

Hands On

I think I can safely speak for virtually all sex workers when I say that we don’t want to be passive tools used by governments and NGOs as the excuse for tyranny; we simply want to be left alone to live our lives like anyone else, with the same rights, privileges, duties and legal protections as people in every other profession.  –  “Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

sex workers uniteToday is International Sex Worker Rights Day, a day for protest and activism held on the anniversary of a 2001 sex worker festival in India which succeeded despite efforts by prohibitionists to stop it via their usual means, collusion with the “authorities”.  I think that has tremendous symbolic value:  prohibitionists would like to stop our whole movement if they could, to silence us, suppress us and turn us into the helpless, voiceless victims who populate  their masturbatory fantasies; it’s therefore important to celebrate a major victory over them so we can remind ourselves that no matter how strenuously our enemies fight to hold us down, and no matter how many cops and politicians they conspire with, we must still win in the long run.  Furthermore, the fact that the observance started in India is in my mind very important; Indian sex workers are an inspiration and an example to their American sisters, and what we take lying down or weakly protest in small groups, they shout down with the thunderous voice of tens of thousands working together.  When I first wrote about the day four years ago it was barely even known in North America (though well-observed all over Asia and Africa), but has since caught on and gets more press every year.  I don’t think we’ll ever have anything like the sheer numbers the Indian groups can boast, but maybe by observing their day we can fortify ourselves with some of their indomitable spirit.  I don’t mean by some sort of sympathetic magic, mind you, but rather by keeping their example in our minds.

Today of all days is especially important to me personally, because it will be the first group sex worker rights event I’ve ever participated in.  I’ve been writing about sex worker rights online for almost eleven years now, and collecting those writings in one place (and under one name!) for five of them; last year I spent months travelling across the country speaking on the subject to anyone who would listen, from individuals to groups of dozens to TV audiences of many thousands.  But everything I’ve ever done as an activist was undertaken either completely alone, or with the help of sympathetic outsiders.  And I’ve come to realize that, as effective as I’ve been, I’ve never had the experience of working with other whores on a concerted action.  It’s one of the things I moved to Seattle for; if you read yesterday’s column you already know another, equally important reason.  As I said on New Year’s Day, I’ve broken out of the cocoon in which I had wrapped myself for so long; though I’m still going to do a lot of my fighting from behind this keyboard, I’m also going to be doing a lot of hands-on work.  And though much of my most important activism will still be solitary, a lot of it will follow the example of my Indian heroines, battling side-by-side in the trenches with my sisters.

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down.
  –  Stevie Nicks, “Dreams”

This was not an easy essay to write, which is why I put it off for as long as I did.  But the events of the last few months made the writing of it an absolute necessity; there’s been a lot of gossip, and a lot of speculation, and I’m sure many of you have suspected something like this for some time now.  I don’t know how to say this in any way but plainly, so here goes:  My husband and I are getting a divorce.

Every Rose Has Its ThornsNow, this isn’t as sudden a development as you might think; a wise and perceptive person might have seen the signs as early as 2007, within a year of my retiring from sex work.  Maybe my retirement changed some of the subtle alchemy of my appeal; maybe it was just the Coolidge Effect.  Or maybe it’s just that, though I’m an easy person to love, I’m damned hard to live with.  I have a tendency to be moody, paranoid and set in my ways; I’m also emotionally intense, incredibly stubborn and often unreasonable, and I tend to get my way all the time without directly demanding it.  He had fallen in love with a glamorous, mysterious enchantress, and perhaps once the bloom was off the rose he began to realize what a damned thorny plant he was holding in his lacerated hand.  And once the money troubles started again the following year (due to the economic crash), I reckon he felt enough was enough; he asked me for a divorce in October of 2008.

To say that I did not take it well would be putting it mildly; “psycho” would probably be closer to an honest appraisal.  The only thing I have to say in my defense is, consider how you would feel if you were a woman who had made her living by being attractive to men, and the one man you had broken your own rules for suddenly rejected you.  I felt as though I had been kicked in the teeth, and reacted accordingly.  He did not expect such an extreme reaction on my part (because men, bless your little hearts, never do understand women even after spending years with one), and backed down from the request; once again I had got my way.  We spent a stormy two years until he asked for divorce again just a few months after I started this blog; that time we went to marriage counseling, and for about a year and a half it really looked like things were improving (my interview with him was near the beginning of this stretch of reconciliation).

But by the end of 2012 the relationship started to unravel again, this time in slow motion.  We didn’t argue at all; in fact we were generally quite friendly on the phone, and he always enthusiastically supported my work.  But he had maintained a second residence (for work) since the summer of 2010, and began to spend much more time there than he did at home.  He was here for only two separate one-week periods in 2013, one in April and the other in July; he made excuses about why he couldn’t come home for Christmas that year, and the only time I spent with him in the whole of last year was a single night when I toured through San Diego.  So it really wasn’t much of a surprise when he asked for a divorce again about a month after I got home from the tour, and this time I agreed.  He insisted on giving me terms more generous than any I had a right to expect; he wasn’t even in a rush, and suggested we do the actual paperwork sometime in the next year (we’ve since agreed to do it this coming July).

Needless to say, I did a lot of deep thinking about what was happening; I was upset and relieved at the same time, and what finally helped me to accept it was the realization that, though I still love him, it was his friendship I would miss the most, and that by being a big girl about it and sincerely wishing him only happiness, that perhaps I wouldn’t actually have to lose it after all.  That’s what it looks like is happening; he’s happier and friendlier on the phone than he’s been in at least two years, and I no longer feel the sullen resentment toward him I’ve felt for seven years.  As soon as I let go of a failed marriage, I found my favorite client again, and who knows?  The stage of our relationship yet to come might actually be the best one for both of us.  Since I fully expect to mention him from time to time, I’ll call him “Matt” from here on out; I obviously can’t call him “my husband” any more, and since I now have two exes I asked him which pseudonym he wanted me to use.

Maggie & Jae 2-19-15After the end of my first marriage, I fended off would-be lovers with the fierceness of Athena until I found myself; this time, the act of letting go was itself an act of self-actualization, and Athena ceded the field to Aphrodite.  My trip to Seattle was, as I’ve already said, powerful and transformative; I knew it was the beginning of a new book of my life, and I knew that it was right and good to be open to whatever it brought with it.  And one of those things, much to my surprise, was love.  I’ve mentioned Jae, a sex worker and activist from Seattle, quite a lot since November; what I haven’t mentioned is that we are much more than friends.  We are, in fact, lovers, and a large part of the reason I’ve come to Seattle is to live with her; in a few years, after my business here is done, she’ll be moving out to the country with me.  And in the meantime, she’ll be traveling with me on some of my trips, so many of y’all will get a chance to meet her.  Yes, we got serious very quickly, but that’s not at all unusual in lesbian relationships (What does a lesbian bring on the second date?  A U-haul trailer.)  Don’t be surprised, dear readers; it’s not like I’ve made a secret of my bisexuality, and if one excludes commercial encounters I’ve actually been with more women than men.

I can’t say that’s all there is to tell right now, because it wouldn’t be true; it is, however, all I want to tell right now and all that I think I should tell right now.  I apologize if the narrative has been a bit less well-organized than usual; it was, as I said above, rather difficult to write.  I’m sure many of you will want to express your sympathy for the divorce, and of course I appreciate that.  But as I said above, this was a long time coming, and Matt and I are both relieved that we can stop inadvertently hurting each other.  In short, three people are happier today than they were in October, and in the big scheme of things that’s something to be thankful for.

Links #243

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.  –  Leonard Nimoy

Sometimes it’s easy to find two videos for these columns, and sometimes it’s difficult; this week was the latter, and since I’m finding that happening much more often of late I’m going to stop fighting it.  If there are two, well and fine; if there’s only one, though, that will be fine, too.  This week’s sole specimen was contributed by Mistress Matisse; the links above it were provided by Eddie Cunningham  (“Sweden”), Grace (“police state”), Wendy Lyon (“message”), Rick Horowitz  (“fear”), and Radley Balko (“together”).

From the Archives

In the News (#517)

People don’t come alone to Mardi Gras to find a hooker.  –  Helena

Whores and Wives

Amateur women’s attacks on sex workers are always pretty pathetic, but this one is truly stupefying:

…real men don’t pay for sex.  A man who needs to objectify women obsessively is not a man at all…when a man pays for sex, it says a lot about his character.  It takes a certain type of man to believe that women can be bought and sold…just because you need sex doesn’t mean you have to get it through prostitution; a real man knows how to get it without his credit card…sex shouldn’t be bought, but earned…A real man would never take another man’s daughter, forced to live a life of prostitution, to bed. A real man isn’t satisfied with fake moans…

The way she flails wildly between demonizing whores and denying our agency is especially fascinating.

Not To Be Taken Internally (February Updates)

“Lillian” is the professional name of Padge Victoria Windslowe, who is on trial…[for] third-degree murder…in the Feb. 8, 2011, death of exotic dancer Claudia Aderotimi…[who] flew to Philadelphia from London for a buttocks-enhancement procedure that consisted of silicone injections administered by Windslowe…The 20-year-old died after the silicone migrated to her lungs…Windslowe is [also] charged with aggravated assault for injections she gave 23-year-old Sherkeeia King in February 2012 at a “pumping party”…King was hospitalized, vomiting blood and struggling to breathe.  Doctors found that silicone in her buttocks had migrated through her bloodstream to her heart and lungs…

Above the Law rapist cop James Greene

This week’s rapist cops hail from Louisiana:  “…James Greene [of Shreveport] was [only] charged with abuse of office…[for raping] a woman [at gunpoint]“…and Canada:

Three Toronto police officers…have been charged with…gang sexual assault…Constables Leslie Nyznik, 38, Joshua Cabero, 28, and Sameer Kara, 31…[raped] a female [cop]…

Sex Work is Work

The ridiculous need to deny that sex work is legitimate work has some weird results at tax time:

…Ms X…set out her business plan for the Tax Office in considerable detail and sought confirmation that her earnings from her proposed activities would not attract tax in Poland.  She would supply, she said, “virtual sex services”, using internet cameras and microphones to connect [to] the service buyer…Prostitution is not forbidden by law in Poland, but at the same time does not constitute a “socially desirable or acceptable behaviour”, and so contracts for prostitution cannot amount to valid and legally-enforceable undertakings.   No income tax is due if a particular activity cannot be the subject of a legally-binding and enforceable agreement…the Tax Office…took the view that…as there was no physical contact in the services proposed, there was no…prostitution…and therefore…not tax-exempt.

Don’t be stupid, ladies; it was “tax evasion” that finally took down Al Capone:

A South Dakota man…paid $1 million over a four-year period for sex with an exotic dancer…David Karlen…was a star witness in a federal trial last year against Veronica Fairchild.  She was accused of failing to pay taxes…sentenced to nearly three years in prison and ordered to pay more than $214,600 in back taxes.

Original Sin (#321)

An especially amusing twist on the “porn causes sex trafficking” trope:

…Pat Robertson…linked women who enjoyed…Fifty Shades of Grey to an increase in sex trafficking around the world…“How many women have read the book and how many women are going to the movie…It’s about all kinds of sadomasochism, it’s about bondage, about whips, it’s about boiling oil, it’s about various types of restraints”…

Girls, Girls, Girls! (#337)

This article on how Mardi Gras affects the sex industry in New Orleans is interesting and more or less accurate (though I see some things have changed since my time, like this new “single woman” rule), but woefully incomplete:  the “New Orleans sex economy” ain’t just strip clubs, y’all.

Imaginary Evils 

Remember, huge police operations have never found more than a single-digit number of “sex trafficking” cases in the UK:

Inside one of Britain’s biggest special anti-trafficking operations, police officers surrounded by files, forms and photographs attempt to unravel a complex network of crime…Operation Retriever was set up in September after police in northern England were alerted to a Slovakian woman who had been tricked into travelling to Britain and then forced to marry a man…There are as many as 13,000 victims of slavery in Britain, forced to work in factories and farms, sold for sex in brothels, or imprisoned in domestic servitude…

devilsdoorbell

Innocence Never Had

Why can people not get this simple concept through their thick skulls?

Homelessness is one of the main reasons youth…engage in “survival sex”…LGBTQ…youth are dramatically more likely to trade sex for a place to stay, according to a new study…Prior research has shown homeless LGBTQ youth were “seven times more likely” to trade sex than their heterosexual counterparts…Those surveyed saw, on average, 11 to 18 customers weekly…The law considers any minor participating in the sex industry to be “trafficked”…but…only 15 percent said they had been in an exploitative situation during their time in survival sex…

Bread and Circuses

It’s good to see the mainstream media getting it:

…on June 25, 2014, visitors to RedBook got a rude shock.  Instead of a directory of links to sexy ads, forums, and reviews, they saw a dire-looking alert from the Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS stating that RedBook’s domain had been seized.  The Feds’ message, still up today, asserts that there is probable cause that the site was involved in “money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution”…

Legal Is As Legal Does (#450)

Banning prostitution from Auckland’s troublespots will not be a job for the Government.  Instead, Auckland Council has been told it already has the power to pass a bylaw to address the problem.  There had been interest in the law change because other cities, in particular Christchurch, were keen to have similar powers to ban prostitution near schools, family homes or sports facilities…

Nothing New

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 25th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

group sex statueEvery generation thinks it invented sex, or at least non-vanilla sex.  And I don’t just mean teenagers who are squicked out by the idea of their parents shagging, either; among vanilla folk and/or those outside the demimonde, the delusion seems to persist through life that nearly everybody who lived before a moving line (hovering like a will-o-the-wisp exactly at the year the believer reached puberty) only had missionary-position sex for the purpose of procreation. Even if the individual is familiar with the Kama Sutra, knows about classical Greek pederasty or has seen the menu of a Victorian brothel, these are likely to be dismissed as islands of kink in a vast sea of unsweetened vanilla custard stretching back into prehistory.  Even doctors quoted in newspaper articles are wont to make incredibly stupid, totally wrong statements like “the concept of having oral sex is something that seems less obscure to you than it did to your parents or grandparents.”  Well, my dears, I’m old enough to have given birth to many of you reading this, and I can assure you that oral sex was not remotely “obscure” to us in those long-ago and far-off days of the early ‘80s; nor was it “obscure” to any of the older men I trysted with in my late teens, many of whom are now old enough to be your grandfathers; nor was it “obscure” to my own grandparents’ generation, who came of age in the Roaring Twenties; nor to the 5.5% or more of the female population who worked as whores in every large city of the world in the 19th century, nor the 70% or more of the male population who had enjoyed their company at least once; nor to any of the long procession of harlots and clients stretching back to before busybodies invented the idea of policing other peoples’ sexuality.  Know what else wasn’t “obscure” to them?  Anal sex.  BDSM.  Role-playing.  Exhibitionism & voyeurism.  Homosexuality.  Cuckolding.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  Here’s a hint:  most lawmakers have always been pompous ignoramuses too obsessed with telling other people what to do to actually have normal lives, so by the time they get around to banning something it’s a pretty safe bet the majority of everybody else in that culture over the age of 16 already knows about it, and many of them are doing it.

Chief among the popular sex acts that modern mythology pretends were “obscure” is masturbation, at least for women.  The common delusion is that because a culture didn’t like to talk about something, it must not have existed; accordingly, the idea has arisen that Victorian girls were somehow so carefully controlled that they never discovered that touching oneself between the legs (or riding rocking horses) feels good.  And because many women have difficulty reaching orgasm without some form of masturbation, that must mean that pre-20th century women all went around in a perpetual state of sexual frustration.  In the past few years, the ridiculous myth has arisen that Victorian doctors actually gave women orgasms without knowing what they were, and that the vibrator was invented to speed up what they viewed as an odious task.

Where do I begin?  In the first place, this tale is so incredibly recent I never heard of it during any of my extensive sexological reading in my teens and twenties; it seems to date to the nineties at the earliest.  Next, it’s a lovely example of Anglocentrism; just because Britons and Americans were so publicly hung-up about sex in the 19th century, doesn’t mean everyone else in Europe, Asia, Africa and the entire Southern Hemisphere was; are we to believe the bulk of female humanity was bereft of the blessing of orgasm until wise white sagesVictorian dildo ad bestowed the gift of the vibrator on their benighted nether regions?  Furthermore, the idea that public posturing actually indicates private feelings, to the point that those who spread this legend actually imagine that dudes were strenuously trying to avoid touching strange women’s twats, is just so colossally dumb it could only be believed in the middle of the neo-Victorian Era.  And a brain has to be pretty deeply mired in 21st-century chauvinism to actually believe that those silly old Victorians didn’t know what a freaking orgasm looked like.  But you don’t have to take my word for all that:

…some historians have claimed women were brought to a “hysterical paroxysm” (supposedly an orgasm that nobody wanted to admit to), by their doctors through “pelvic massage” (masturbation).  To aid them, a vibrating device was invented because there were just so many women who needed this form of treatment that the poor doctors’ hands were getting tired, and they had to use a machine…this…idea…seems to have taken root in our popular culture, helped by “shock exposés”, a few books, and the 2011 film Hysteria, where…Victorian doctor…Mortimer Granville, turns his 1880s invention of a muscular massage device into a sexual awakening for his female patients.  So did the real Dr Granville invent an electronic device for massage?  Yes.  Was it anything to do with the female orgasm?  No.  He actually invented it to help stimulate male pain relief, just as massage is used today.

Victorian doctors knew exactly what the female orgasm was; in fact, it’s one of the reasons they thought masturbation was a bad idea…Marriage guides…often claimed that a woman in a sexually satisfying relationship was more likely to become pregnant, as the wife’s orgasm was just as necessary to conception as her husband’s…The Art to Begetting Handsome Children, published in 1860, contains a detailed passage on foreplay…A Guide To Marriage, published in 1865 by the aptly named Albert Sidebottom…[advises] young couples…that “All love between the sexes is based upon sexual passion”…In 1877, Annie Besant, a one-time vicar’s wife, helped to publish Fruits of Philosophy, a guide that set out every possible contraceptive method available…its British circulation reached over 125,000 in the first few months alone.  So can we please stop saying Victorian women were having unknown orgasms stimulated by their doctors?…

Unfortunately, most people value the truth far less than they value the ability to feel smug.  And people several generations dead are so easy to feel smug about; after all, they aren’t around to tell you that you’re more ignorant about their lives than you pretend they were about sex.

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