Sex in the Regency

Ubnew Jo here, back home in Devon after a brief jaunt to London for the Romantic Novelists Association's Regency Readers' Day. Wench Nicola was there, too. I don't have a head count, but I think over 100 people attended and a great time was had by all. The programme contained some panels sessions, a talk by Honorary Wench Jennifer Kloester on her biography of Georgette Heyer (if you missed her visit to the Word Wenches a short while ago, it's here), and some active sessions on Regency dance — always fun — and Regency parlour games.

There were also a number of people in costume, including some handsome soldiers.


I moderated the panel on Sex and the Georgians, which was rollicking good fun. We started with a short talk about the Celestial Bed. You can read more about it here.

Graham was a late 18th century experimenter with electricity for healing purposes. It's tagged quackery, but electricity continued to be used in medicine throughout the 19th century, and it might sometimes have been effective. After all, we now use TNS — Trans-neural-stimulation — electricity for pain.

"The cenCchbukterpiece of the Temple of Health was the 'Celestial Bed,' which was reserved for those able to afford the fee of £50 a night. Graham advertised that anyone who rented the bed for the night would be "blessed with progeny." Sterility or impotence would be cured." (From the linked article above.)

  There's a review of a book on the subject which gives more detail.


The panel — Elizabeth Moss, Jan Jones, Annie Burrows, and me — discussed our own take on the reality of sex in the Georgian era, and the way we portray it in romance novels. New tiger cover

The Georgian period is long, taking us from the tail end of the Stuarts and Restoration mores almost to the Victorian period with its hypocricritical prudishness, so today let's only look at the Regency — 1811 – 18203

Want to have a go at these questions?

When a novel's heroine is a spinster, how much might she know about the male body, and about sexual intercourse, on her wedding night?

How much might she know after it? LOL!

How much might she know about pregnancy — how it happens and the risks of different sexual acts?

Janjones How much might she know about contraception?

Is it believable to have women in Regency-set romances driven beyond reason by sexual desire?

Do you have a strong preference between novels with explicit sex and those without it?

If the novel ends before the characters make love, is that okay, or do you feel cheated?

If the characters make love in the book, but the author "closes the bedroom door" is that okay, or annoying?

I'll answer that one. For me, infuriating! I don't mind "sweet" books at all, as long as the story ends before they make love, but if they do, I want to continue the same deep connection I've experienced during the rest of the story. I don't necessarily need detail, but I want to understand what happened, because it isn't a given.


(Picture here is the sort a young lady might well see around the stately home.)6a00d8341c84c753ef00e54f1375cc8833-800wi.jpg

Sometimes people will say that we don't need to go there because "everyone knows what happens." But that simply isn't true. Sex, particularly the first sex a couple has, is highly revealing about them and their relationships. Sex is also unpredictable — sometimes it just doesn't work out, and how do they respond then? Sometimes it turns hilariously funny. Again, how do they respond to that. Sometimes it's complicated, sometimes simple. And so it goes. I want to know.

1374591169 When I was a teenager reading Georgette Heyer I often continued the book in my mind, especially to the marriage bed. Before I had practical experience to bring to that I could still spin it out pretty well because sexuality is hard-wired in our brains. For2011

So, have a go at the questions and there'll be a pick of my booklist prize to a random pick of the most entertaining or illuminating comments.



(Statue she might see around the house.)