The tendency of women to gossip about their sex lives with their friends has set men a-fretting for centuries. Far from being a phenomenon of the ‘Sex & the City’ era, women of the seventeenth century were just as likely to have intimate discussions about their man’s skills and equipment, past experiences, how to keep him interested and how to be sexy.
‘The Ten Pleasures of Marriage’ (1682) reveals that the seventeenth-century gent was just as likely to worry not only about his performance, but also the fact that all of his wife’s friends would end up knowing about it. The author writes that, once she embarks upon sexual relations with her new man, the lady’s first impulse is to compare notes with her friends, both asking the tricks of other men and “shamelessly” revealing exactly what goes on between her own bedcurtains. The gaggle of women will eagerly offer their advice for how to improve her man’s libido and performance, which amounts to this:
a) Encourage his consumption of foods with lustful properties. They advocate familiar aphrodisiacs such as oysters and cavier, as well as the now lesser-used hot chocolate (yum) and offal (not-so-yum).
b) Fire his lust by “dallying with him” and arranging yourself about the house “in Wanton postures” in an attempt to catch his attention.
Carrie & co – is that you?
“Within a very small time the good woman begins to scrape acquaintance, and get some familiarity with her neighbours… Then to the end she may hear the better how things goes; she inquires very earnestly amongst her acquaintance what caresses they receive from their husbands; and most shamlesly relates what hath passed between her and her husband, twixt the curtains, or under the Rose; which she doth to that purpose, that she may hear whether her husband understands his work well, and whether he doth it well, and oft enough; and also whether he be fully fit for the employ, &c, for the verification whereof the Councel of women bring so many compleat relations, that it is a shame to think, much more to speak of them.
Whosoever she speaks with every one pities her, and gives her their advice: And the best sort will at the least say to her, I would oftentimes treat my husband with such sort of spices as were good for my self, viz. Oisters, Egs, Cox-combs, sweet breads, Lam-stones, Caveer, &c, and counsell him every morning to go to the Coffeehouse and drink some Chocolate… And then I would many times my self by dallying with him, and some other pretty Wanton postures, try to provoke him to it.”
The Seventeenth-Century Carrie Bradshaw?
Image (top): detail from ‘Conversation de dames en l’absence de leurs maris’ by Abraham Bosse (1602-1676)