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Wedding Night Terror: the uneducated virgin and Victorian England


Victorian couple on their wedding day. Most brides wore their nicest dress with a special accessory, like this bride's floral hairpiece.
Lively Arts History Association
Imagine a wedding night where neither party had any idea how the mechanics of sex functioned. Imagine a new bride so terrified of the “rude” action her husband tried to commit, she runs home to her parents and asks for an annulment the next day. Imagine a woman going into labor and truly believing that the infant was about to exit her body via the bellybutton. These terrifying circumstances where women had no reproductive or sexual knowledge prior to real-life experience were all a reality, according to Roy Porter and Leslie Hall in The Facts of Life: Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain (Chapter 11). How was this possible?

The following exhibit will begin by discussing the sexual attitudes of Victorian England, and then discuss the various sex manuals which existed to prevent the above scenarios from occurring. The unfortunate uneducated mentioned above were largely middle-class people, so the exhibit will focus on the education of middle-class Victorians throughout the period, mainly exploring how women were prepared for their wedding night.