Piano Legs and Masturbation

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

I love sex and culture. Which leads to my frustration with the two-faced relationship we have with sex. We flaunt it everywhere, and then we hide it away, ashamed. So, who wrote this broken societal script for sex?

One of the major influences of how we think about sex, deep down, is the Victorians. When the British Empire expanded across the globe, it also spread its ideals. In Victorian England, many men suffered from a disease called Spermatorrhea (Syphilis). This disease caused paralysis, blindness, and enfeebled the mind. Medical experts of the time narrowed the cause to loss of semen, resulting in the British trying to restrict the amount of sex they had Sex was only allowed for procreation to protect men’s health — patriarchal medicine at its best.  

To help, Kellogg and Graham created high-fibre foods to stop urges, because it made people defecate. Words like "bosom" became popular as women hid all their skin — “breasts” was too crude. The naked leg of a bed or piano was covered because they could cause arousal. Masturbation was seen as leading to blindness and mental illness (origin of the myth). Wives slept in separate beds and only lay with their husbands to procreate. For the first time in history, women needed to keep male urges in check. It is also the first time that sex became the duty of the wife, and the privilege of the husband. Now the upper class didn’t need to follow these rules, and the poor were considered too irrational. The burden of being proper fell on the middle class.

With sexual repression, outlets pop up. In the middle ages, it was ye old witch burning. For the Victorians, sex went underground. Brothels and pornographic novels became popular. These novels followed similar plots: A young woman is kidnapped, put in a dungeon where no one can hear her, and the kidnapper teaches her how she actually enjoys sex by repeatedly raping her. After, she thanks her captor and leaves happy. This idea that women want to be raped has helped to set the basis for sexual assault in our culture. It also divided making love and sex.

This is what the Victorians passed on. The good news is that the world is full of amazing cultures, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to negative influences. Now we can create a fun, healthy sexual script.

For more information on the Victorian Sexuality, click here or here.


Andrew Oliveira is a young writer who is currently strolling about Ottawa. He spends time between his writing, entertaining his cat Atticus, worshiping his muse and partner Barbara, saving virtual worlds from a plethora of crises with the power of his thumbs, and dusting his diploma from the University of Ottawa. His poetry has been published in Bywords and in Ottawater, and he has an enthusiasm for fiction, non-fiction, and scientific writing. 

Find me on Twitter

Interesting links for more information

http://www.sieccan.org/ I http://www.worldsexualhealth.org/