Monday, 26 January 2009

It's an Institute You Can't Disparage

This post contatains some sensitive material, if your little ones are reading over your shoulder, you may want to move on and read this later!

Now, I did say to my friend Jenny that I would post on "the daily round" today and how it has changed throughout the decades, but I've (ahem) changed my mind. I've finally booked up the courage to post on something I've been itching to do for ages. You see ladies, amongst my collection of old cookbooks and homemaking books, I have some "top shelf material". That is to say, I have one or two vintage tomes that specifically (and explicitly) tutor on the subject of marriage and motherhood. The books are often simply titled "The Marriage Book" or "Marriage and Motherhood", and date mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s, a time when s*xual activity was not seen as taboo, but was kept within the confines of the marriage bed (largely). However, it would be a mistake to think that the books are simply manuals on how to conduct the intimate relationships, they go further than that, and because of this they offer a more comprehensive insight into the way every-day people led their lives than many of my household guides and recipe books.

In The Marriage Book, which carries the rather wonderful sub-heading of "for husbands and wives and all who love children", young men are encouraged not to consummate their marriage on the wedding night, and indeed this is advice which is often repeated in many of the vintage books I have on marriage.

There are times when, owing to nervous fatigue of the wedding and travel attending the honeymoon, the young woman is too tired to respond to any long caressing...he will find generally with the coming of morning that the expression of affection against which she would have reacted unfavourably the night before is now thoroughly welcome and met with responses.

The attitude of the writers suggests that although many women enjoyed "kisses and caresses" during the engagement period, they would be v*rg*ns on their wedding night and would need careful and gentle treatment before the consummating act.

Little by little this love play should be carried to greater intimacy, care being taken not to make the woman feel she is being hurried or pushed into more intimacy than she desires.

However, the woman was in no way tutored "to lie back and think of England".

She, on her part, if she has an honest desire to achieve normal, wholesome s*x relationship, will put on no false modesty, nor will fail to show her husband that she is enjoying what he gives her. After half an hour or an hour of loving, the woman is usually as eager for intercourse as any man...

As a modern reader I find it interesting that these books explode the myths surrounding s*xual activity pre the s*xual revolution of the 1960s. The Marriage Book shows us that women were expected to find enjoyment in the marriage bed, that men were expected to provide "half an hour or an hour of loving" before the act, and the men are told that at times a woman will "pass through several noticeable o******s before her passion comes to an end." So, Philip Larkin was wrong, "s*xual intercourse" did not "begin in 1963", it was there all along, but confined to a very private sphere, and placed firmly within the context of marriage. As an aside, we are told that even a married woman should "never be pushed into more intimacy than she desires" many of our young girls today can say they never feel harried or pushed into more intimacy than they desire?

Now, these books tend to focus on these intimate relationships in their initial chapters, but aim at being comprehensive guides. So we often find alarming juxtapositions of topic within the contents pages. Here are a few chapter headings, as an illustration.

S*x in Modern Life

Common Mistakes

Motives for Birth Control

Choosing a House

The Wife's Creed

Food for the Average Family

Don't for Mothers

Christmas Dinner Menus for Six Persons

Simple Patterns for Children's Wear

These books aim for all-round happiness in family life, and see each aspect of marriage as interconnected, they simply offer more personal advice on the general homemaking manuals of the period. I think we modern types see our lives are more compartmentalised: we don't necessarily see how our intimate lives are related to what we cook, how we manage finances, how we rear our children: but these 1930s manuals did, and I tend to agree, simply because our health and happiness does tend to rest on how we conduct our home-lives, and what constitutes a home-life is myriad.

Before I go, let me leave you with a rallying cry, from Marriage and Motherhood, a call to all patriotic British women which firmly places the book's context in the immediate post-war period. It is interesting to see how the "ideal" has changed over the past fifty years, and indeed how the "ideal" of womanhood is often changed to suit the economic and social climate of the period.

To make a success of marriage and motherhood is the ambition of every true woman, and in doing so she in not only realising personal happiness, but performing the greatest service to her country that is in her power. Happy homes are the bulwarks of a nation, for they provide the only environment in which really satisfactory citizens can be reared, and there was never a time when they were more needed.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my trawl through the more unusual examples of my book collection. What are your immediate reactions to the advice given?


Anonymous said...

I don't have time to watch the video, I'll check that out later.

My first reaction is that I would have been a bit miffed on my wedding night had my new husband have taken that advice! ;) I like the gentle advice though.

And I love the juxtaposition of the various chapters! It's like Women's Weekly meets Cosmo.

Anonymous said...

I meant to type 'I like the gentleness of the advice...'

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah
Those were some of the less shocking chapter headings! Hmm, yes, the writer does advocate a bit of "joy in the morning" though.

Millie said...

My immediate reaction is "Wow, sounds great to me."

I've been lurking for a few weeks. It figures this would be the post that would make me comment. :)

Angela said...

Where DO you find these fabulous videos?? I never knew mould could be that sexy!

This all sounds like fairly wise advice to me [apart from the wedding night bit - having waited, pure and chaste, all that time, I was ready for some action....!]

I remember my Dad once saying "Every new generation thinks it invented sex. How did they think THEY arrived here?"

Sarah - isn't the definition of the different women's magazines that
Cosmo = how to have an orgasm
Vogue = how to have an orgasm stylishly
Woman's Weekly = how to knit one!!

What is the world coming to - I never thought I would type this sort of thing in a blog! I shall throw caution to the winds and NOT publish this comment anonymously.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Millie
I'm glad that was your first reaction! I didn't think it sounded too bad either! you can see my excitement by all of the exclamation marks I'm using!!!

Hi Angela
I now want to knit my own org*sm. You made Woman's Weekly sound appealing all of a sudden, you brave girl, you!

Scriptor Senex said...

I think a manual for husbands wouldn't have gone amiss either. If more husbands then (and now) realised that you could substitute He for She in the last paragraph quoted the world would be a better place.
(Loved Angela's definition of the magazines!)

Anonymous said...

Lol Angela...I might just take up knitting, embroidery just doesn't cut it!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Scrip
I'm so glad we gals didn't make you blush.

You need to look at Victorian tracts for exhortations to husbands of the kind you were referring.

"...the husband is to give himself, deny himself, utterly to forget hiumself, in simple and wholehearted devotion to his wife...The very centre of a man's life should be his home..." Home-Making J R Miller,1882

These books are distinctly lacking in the kind of sauce I was describing in the post, but are interesting (and useful,if you're a Christian) nonetheless!

Hi Sarah
Now you know why my needles are constantly on the go. I'm going to find a copy of that pattern Angela was talking about. It should eally liven up my MU meetings!

Angela said...

I refer my friends to the last verse of Victoria Wood's song, "Let's do it!"

VW obviously knows all about WW

Dulce Domum said...

Oh Ang!
I'm laughing and I should be cleaning...
"Be drastic
Wear your baggy Y-fronts with the loose elastic.
Let's do it!
Let's do it tonight!"

Gumbo Lily said...

My first reaction:

"What else is on the top shelf?"

Really, good stuff.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
Just cookbooks, homemaking books and the afroementeioned vintage s*x manuals...what that says about me I dread to think!!!