The Victorian era saw the publication of a deluge of advice books aimed at the young bride-to-be and the newly married woman. And much of the material contained within such literature confirms the stereotype we have of the Victorians, especially that of the upper classes. Indeed, judging by these books, the Victorians do seem to be a straitlaced lot when it came to sexual matters. But most shocking of all to modern sensibilities are the casual assumptions of male superiority. Read on, and prepare to be outraged!
20. At least a rudimentary knowledge of biology
It was assumed that most of the young women at whom Victorian guides on marriage were aimed would be from the upper-middle or middle classes. And from that supposition sprung the quite reasonable idea that these young women’s knowledge of basic biology was scant – if it even existed at all.
So, what awaited a young woman on her wedding night was likely to be even more of a mystery – and perhaps a rather terrifying one at that. Walter Gallichan, writing in his 1918 The Psychology of Marriage, advised, “It is necessary that the virgin should not enter the married state without even theoretical knowledge of sex.” Alarmingly, he went on to say in relation to the wedding night, “Now and then one reads a painful report of suicide at this crisis in a girl’s life.”