Victorian Women Enjoyed Sex!

Victorian Women Enjoyed Sex!

Are you shocked? This fascinating article came through the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA a couple of years ago. I shared it then, but figured it is interesting enough to dust off and repost.

MosherThe long, very detailed article in the April 2010 edition of Stanford Magazine (as in Stanford University, CA) is totally worth the time to read carefully. But, the gist is that in 1974 historian Carl Hegler was digging through University archives and discovered the files of Stanford undergraduate Clelia Mosher (to the right).

Mosher was educated at Stanford in the later decades of the 1800s, taught and researched, before then moving on to Johns Hopkins to receive her doctorate. Her focus was women’s issues. Along the way (and the article recounts her many contributions) she conducted a very thorough survey of women born before 1870 on all matters sexual. This is the oldest known survey of its type, decades pre-dating similar tests in the 1940s. The results were never published by her, but are stunning in what they reveal about women’s thoughts and actions regarding sex in an era striving to deny that women had sexual impulses at all!

The article – The Sex Scholar – by Kara Platoni can be read in its entirety at the link.

Very intriguing information. Of course, I have never been of the belief that women ever completely denied their sexuality, as history shows this not to be the case. However, if Victorian Era women could break through the harsh mores and repression of the day to comprehend that intimacy is a pleasurable activity, is it not proof that women of a freer age would have an easier time of it? Obviously you know what MY answer to that question is! Your thoughts are very welcome.




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CJ Fosdick

Seems like women were victims of clothing then–often still are. Only going in opposite directions–scantily clad women regarded negatively. Wow!! This was so interesting.More so because the subjects in the survey were all educated women of class. I would imagine that if a survey had been taken from women of a lower class system, the responses might have been even more “enthusiastic” about sexual activity. I’d LOVE to see a survey giving only the male point of view. If women were so ill-informed about sex, how did men get their information?


One of the many reasons I LOVE your novels Sharon is that the characters are respectful and courteous by day but let lose their inhibitions solely with each other in private. I think it would be very sad to live in an era where you have to think that being intimate is an evil.
By reading through some of the article it appears that most women surveyed had the right idea 😉


I’m wondering what did they wear at night. Were their night gowns as layered as their day clothing? Gollee, I’ll bet it would take a fellow’s appetite trying to get all that stuff off of her. This is the first time I’ve heard that Victorian women liked sex. Trying to think back on some of the Classic Love stories I’ve read or seen on t.v.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x