Creative Commons License
This exhibit has not been peer reviewed.  [Return to Group]  [Printer-friendly Page] 

Wedding Night Terror: the uneducated virgin and Victorian England


Where did women learn?

Some scholars have posited that women learned about sexuality through a network of female family and friends, but, according to Michie, little written evidence exists to back this claim up (120). Some women read sex manuals, which, at the time, were not the encyclopedia of useful and well-explained information that, for example, the modern Our Bodies, Ourselves is. The advice and information in these manuals, which will be dissected and explained throughout this exhibit, was euphemistic and vague, offering little help to a reader with no starting knowledge. How, for example, should a woman interpret a friend's written advice about a wedding-night diaper (presumably to protect the bed linens from blood) if the reader is not aware of how her marriage will be physically consummated (125)? Even dictionaries, which would have been more easily accessed by protected daughters, offered little help: words like semen, ovary and menstruation were left out of some volumes entirely (Michie 126). In later Victorian years, sex manuals with scientific information were often kept in the home, but were more intended for the education of male children. Research has not shown whether female children were allowed access to this educational material, which was often kept under lock and key (128). All of this guarding of information means that women may have learned everything they knew about sex on their honeymoon.