HI, I would like to know more about sex in Tudor times, I have read that women were to lie still and were not supposed to have pleasure. I have also read that men were encourged to bring their wives to orgasm because it was thought that it was important because it made conception an easier task. Also no sex during preganancy? Were the men expected to take a mistress because making love with their wives was only to concieve a child? I really enjoy this site!

I can't say that I'm an expert on that aspect of Tudor history but I know that sex before marriage was seen as sinful, although it seems as if it was acceptable for a man to "sow his oats", that it was important for women to be virgins until their wedding night, that sex was seen as purely for procreation and that the missionary position was the one approved of by the church as it was thought to give a better chance of pregnancy.
As far as orgasm is concerned, reporter Sarah Boxer, in her article on the history of the vibrator, "Batteries Not Included", says "In Tudor and Stuart England, for example, many physicians saw ''the clitoris as the principle locus of sexual pleasure'' and believed female orgasm was an ''incentive for women to risk their lives in pregnancy.'' " There is also an interesting article on the history of sex at http://www.likesbooks.com/medevil3.html in which Jean Mason says:-

"The church, the most powerful cultural arbiter of the day, was deeply suspicious of sexuality in general and female sexuality in particular. The clergy preached that sex should only occur for the purposes of procreation, not for pleasure. Chastity was one of the seven cardinal virtues and lust one of the seven deadly sins. In their role as confessors, priests questioned parishoners about their marital sexual practices and placed limits on when relations were appropriate. Husband and wife were not supposed to have sex on (I think) Tuesday, Friday or Sunday and not at all during Lent. Enjoying sex too much was viewed as a sin, although a venial (as opposed to a mortal) one.

For women, virginity was the highest possible state, widowhood next best, with marriage coming in a distant third. Widows who chose to remarry were viewed with suspicion. Why would any woman seek to place herself once again in a position where she would have to endure sexual relations? Certainly the attitudes toward sexuality espoused by the clergy (supposedly celibate themselves, in theory if not in practice), if internalized, could well inhibit women's enjoyment of sex.

While the church's attitudes were very powerful, there were countervailing intellectual forces at work that suggested a more positive view of female sexuality. One was the existing medical understanding of reproduction. (Of should I say misunderstanding!) Many physicians in the middle ages had adopted the Galenic concept of the existence of female sperm. Unlike Aristotle, who had insisted that women play no role in conception, but merely provided a temporary home for the fetus (this is a bit of an exaggeration), Galen insisted that it was imperative that the woman ejaculate her sperm for conception to succeed. Thus, it was important that the woman as well as the man have an orgasm, preferably simultaneously. There were actually medieval manuals which provided detailed instructions on how to arouse a woman, with all sorts of suggestions about foreplay.

While these manuals may not have been widely read, it does seem that the idea that a woman must have an orgasm in order to conceive was widespread. This belief may well have encouraged husbands to be more considerate lovers, given the importance of children during this era. (A downside of this belief was the insistence that a woman could not get pregnant from a rape and if she did, she must have been a willing participant.)"

As far as sex during pregnancy is concerned, that was best avoided which is why Henry VIII tended to take mistresses while his wives were pregnant.

Regarding sexual pleasure, Alison Weir, in a talk I heard in July, commented that in Tudor times women were not meant to experience sexual pleasure and when someone publicly said that women were made to experience pleasure during sexual intercourse he was accused of heresy. Interesting!


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