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"The so-called Victorian conception of women's sexuality was more that of an ideology seeking to be established than the prevalent view or practice of even middle-class women."
March 31, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

"Some enjoyed sex but worried that they shouldn't. One slept apart from her husband 'to avoid temptation of too frequent intercourse.' " Standford Magazine on the accidental discovery of an unpublished sex survey of American women made 55 years before Kinsey . (via)
posted by The Whelk (50 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kisney = Kinsey + Disney. A titillating prospect.
posted by DU at 11:10 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kisney...I'm envisioning an alternate reality Walt Disney who built a massive empire around sex-positive animated films.
posted by jedicus at 11:11 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Standford! Well I'll be. I'm a Cormell grad myself.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:11 AM on March 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


One of these days I will learn to read.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 AM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


[I prolexicked that for you. Carry on.]
posted by cortex at 11:14 AM on March 31, 2010


Damn you Stanford, you tease! Publish the survey results!
Hell, obfuscate names and put the full questionnaires online. I want OKCupid or someone to get me some fancy charts on this stat!
posted by graventy at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2010


Your title answers a question I've had for a long time. Except does it really? From the article:
Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all.

Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking. One, born in 1844, called sex "a normal desire" and observed that "a rational use of it tends to keep people healthier." Offered another, born in 1862, "The highest devotion is based upon it, a very beautiful thing, and I am glad nature gave it to us."
The first sentence is trying to tell us something about "Victorian women". The supporting paragraph says "many" and gives two examples. We could probably find two men from the same era who didn't have handlebar moustaches or ride pennyfarthings, but that doesn't allow us to draw a conclusion about all men or even men in general.

She collected "45 profiles in all". Interesting, but basically a pile of anecdotes.
posted by DU at 11:19 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, reading farther they do indeed acknowledge the "small and unrepresentative". So the line I objected to is just momentary irresponsibility, not a general failure. Good article, cool scientist.
posted by DU at 11:22 AM on March 31, 2010


Cal grads know the correct spelling is Stanfurd.
posted by ambient2 at 11:31 AM on March 31, 2010


People had sex before the Kinsey Report?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:36 AM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


The average width of skirt was then 13.5 feet.

That is incredible. That's enough skirt to wrap around the woman 3 or 4 times!
posted by Mister_A at 11:38 AM on March 31, 2010


Thanks to a steady supply of young female research subjects, Mosher's scholarly aim soon became clear: to prove that women were not inferior to men, and that frailties chalked up to sex were really the effects of binding garments, insufficient exercise and mental conditioning. Her master's thesis, for example, showed that women breathe from the diaphragm, as men do, rather than from the chest, as was believed at the time. She concluded that this so-called biological difference was really due to tight corsetry.
Why have researchers ignored such observations? Does the modern breast cancer epidemic among women not point to similar causes? I wish there were more researchers like Mosher today, as we are still waiting a serious, scientific study of modern garments and women's health.
posted by melatonic at 11:38 AM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


melatonic,

What on earth are you jibbering about? Peer reviewed research of GTFO.
posted by atrazine at 11:42 AM on March 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Cal grads know the correct spelling is Stanfurd.
posted by ambient2 at 2:31 PM on March 31 [+] [!]


Stanford grads know how very difficult Cal grads find spelling, and so do our very best to be supportive when Cal grads make the effort.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:46 AM on March 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


I want to read the whole thing!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:54 AM on March 31, 2010


atrazine,

What didn't make sense?
posted by melatonic at 12:08 PM on March 31, 2010


He's trying to say that there's nothing in your statement or links that rises above the level of "urban legend."
posted by Mister_A at 12:14 PM on March 31, 2010


atrazine: I have nothing to add to this discussion, but I wanted to tell you that the line "Peer reviewed research or GTFO" has made my day better.
posted by mhoye at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2010


I just read through the original 1953 Kinsey book "Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female" not two days ago, saw it on a friend's shelf. Pretty entertaining on the whole, and also interesting to contemplate how things have changed in 50 years. The section on foreplay was memorable... most women would never feel up a man, let alone engage in oral sex with him - completely unthinkable. And that college women would engage in sex mostly when they were at home, rather than in the college town. On the whole though, I'm quite grateful to not have lived 50 years ago, doesn't seem like I'd be having as much fun in bed back then ;)
posted by lizbunny at 12:37 PM on March 31, 2010


Interesting post, thanks Whelk.
posted by XMLicious at 12:44 PM on March 31, 2010


Mister_A,

Nothing I'm finding is saying "NO, definitively not, it's been checked 10 times", just "uhh, probably not." As the ACS page I linked to said:
We know of only one scientifically-conducted epidemiologic study that investigated a possible link between bra use and breast cancer.
(That lone study found a weak correlation between cancer risk and bra usage, but didn't have sufficient power to isolate causality.)

Thus, due to insufficient research, the issue continues to live in the murky land of urban legend. Seems like we are still waiting for a serious scientific study of said urban legend.

Is this legend really much different than the legend that women breathe from their diaphrams, not chests? Am I really an idiot for analogizing that victorian women's health issues are to corsets as 21st century ones are to bras?
posted by melatonic at 12:49 PM on March 31, 2010


Cal grads know the correct spelling is Stanfurd.

Actually, this Stanford grad uses the "Stanfart" spelling, which is even better (and even more applicable).
posted by blucevalo at 12:49 PM on March 31, 2010


melatonic - the scientific community is not required to investigate every single claim made by a chain email.
posted by Think_Long at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's what the american cancer society says about bras and breast cancer:
There are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer. The email appears to be based on the writings of a husband and wife team of medical anthropologists who link breast cancer to wearing a bra. The two anthropologists suggested this association in a book called Dressed to Kill. Their study was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research and did not take into consideration other variables, including known risk factors for breast cancer.
posted by delmoi at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Peter Gay's The Bourgeois Experience looks at Victorian attitudes toward sex, particularly in the first volume, The Education of the Senses. His main sources were diaries and letters written to lovers or close friends who could be trusted with intimate revelations, but he also mentions several surveys including Mosher's. Gay presents a great deal of material from the survey, citing the book by Degler mentioned in the FPP link: The Mosher Survey: Sexual Attitudes of Forty-five Victorian Women. Gay notes that private passion and accepted public attitudes toward sex were often at odds. Even the women surveyed by Mosher who enjoyed sex very much were inclined to emphasize the spiritual connection between husband and wife. Gay notes this contradiction and concludes that accepted attitudes toward women and sexuality sprang from male anxiety. Freud both challenged and strengthened these attitudes.
posted by CCBC at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Growing up in Alabama I often wondered what was so great about Stanford? Wasn't it just a small Baptist college?

Did I mention that I can't spell very well?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:06 PM on March 31, 2010


Kisney...I'm envisioning an alternate reality Walt Disney who built a massive empire around sex-positive animated films.

I'm picturing a rather disturbing line of cartoon character toothbrushes.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:08 PM on March 31, 2010


Is that top photo Dr. Mosher or Truman?
posted by kirkaracha at 1:10 PM on March 31, 2010


I usually try to refrain, but ... just this once.

Metafilter: Peer reviewed research or GTFO.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:11 PM on March 31, 2010


i think that melatonic is actually asking women to walk around without bras. let him (sorry if its a her) try it out once age and gravity start doing their tricks and tell him to run down the stairs fast till it hurts and bruises.
posted by infini at 1:17 PM on March 31, 2010


It's much better with the slip uncorrected:
Metafilter: Peer reviewed research of GTFO.
posted by 445supermag at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nothing I'm finding is saying "NO, definitively not, it's been checked 10 times", just "uhh, probably not." As the ACS page I linked to said:

We know of only one scientifically-conducted epidemiologic study that investigated a possible link between bra use and breast cancer.


And there are ZERO studies that investigated a possible link between UNDERPANTS and breast cancer. Really we are all safer nude until sufficiently powered randomized controlled trials prove otherwise.
posted by little e at 1:38 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most breast tumors are found in the quadrant of the breast nearest the armpit, the part of the breast least restricted by the bra. I've always suspected anti-perspirant but I am no scientist like the honorable Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher.

This article made me proud to be a modern woman who can do her own carpentry and loves to fuck. Odd, I know. Hell yeah, I'm a girl!
posted by Foam Pants at 1:40 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


i think that melatonic is actually asking women to walk around without bras. let him (sorry if its a her) try it out once age and gravity start doing their tricks and tell him to run down the stairs fast till it hurts and bruises.

Not to mention the nipple chafe!
posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on March 31, 2010


This reminds me of what I cite as the worst sentence of all time. From a psychology textbook I had as an undergrad, the opening sentence to a chapter: Sex has probably gone on since the beginning of man. Even if it dropped the "probably" it would still be a completely unnecessary sentence.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:50 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


well, miko, that's why i take it off before I go to bed.
posted by infini at 1:54 PM on March 31, 2010


the scientific community is not required to investigate every single claim made by a chain email.

melatonic originally said: "I wish there were more researchers like Mosher today, as we are still waiting a serious, scientific study of modern garments and women's health." Is expressing the desire for more research considered an affront to the dignity of scientists or something? Aren't scientists supposed to always want more research on stuff, too? Isn't that kind of the point?
posted by stammer at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


> From a psychology textbook I had as an undergrad, the opening sentence to a chapter: Sex has probably gone on since the beginning of man. Even if it dropped the "probably" it would still be a completely unnecessary sentence.

Yes, but with the "probably" it becomes a remarkable and untested hypothesis!
posted by ardgedee at 2:14 PM on March 31, 2010


Kinsey was an idiot whose 'research' had nothing to do with actual science.

That is all.
posted by koeselitz at 2:59 PM on March 31, 2010


Fascinating article about a lady I had never heard of before. Thanks for the post.
posted by falconred at 4:07 PM on March 31, 2010


"Equal pay for women means equal work; unnecessary menstrual absences mean less than full work," she wrote.

I'm sure she would be glad to hear that we modern woman of today do get equal pay for equal work! Oh wait...
posted by sallybrown at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2010


Some archival scraps hint at her longing for connection: an unfinished novel whose heroine chooses career over the man she loves, musings on the mother-daughter bond and, the most poignant, a series of letters to an imaginary friend.

That is unbelievably sad. Letters to an imaginary friend. Poor woman.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:45 PM on March 31, 2010


Dr. Mosher is my new hero - I want to read those surveys!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2010


This article made me proud to be a modern woman who can do her own carpentry and loves to fuck. Odd, I know. Hell yeah, I'm a girl!

Damn girl, why don't you come on down here and teach me how to cope moldings. That would be hot! In the sense of "really useful."
posted by Mister_A at 5:38 PM on March 31, 2010


That is unbelievably sad. Letters to an imaginary friend. Poor woman.

If it makes you feel better, you could just think of it as protoblogging. She's just a couple of hits per day short of the average blog. If that.
posted by bgribble at 6:05 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is expressing the desire for more research considered an affront to the dignity of scientists or something?

The important thing of course is to keep doing studies until we get a positive correlation. When it comes to a new possible source of panic, we will NOT take "no" for an answer!
posted by happyroach at 8:11 PM on March 31, 2010


The important thing of course is to keep doing studies until we get a positive correlation.

It is really important to repeat apparently uncontroversial studies. That's how you know if the results are reproducible. Results might change over time, revealing an environmental influence, so it's even worth checking if the results have been reproduced several times.
posted by stammer at 8:29 PM on March 31, 2010


stammer: I think people are saying more 'why is nobody complaining about the lack of studies on the causal effect of blue websites and eye cancer? It has NEVER been proved safe!' It's not that it's been studied and we've got the answer, it's more that we don't think it's worth studying because there is no reason to think there is anything to find out.
posted by jacalata at 11:36 PM on March 31, 2010


It's not that it's been studied and we've got the answer, it's more that we don't think it's worth studying because there is no reason to think there is anything to find out

And therein lies the bias...

I don't think the statements stammer or melatonic have made are worthy of mockery though. If the cause is unknown, there are an infinite number of possibilities that need to be researched to find that cause. That's assuming the cause is singular and not a combination of factors.

I've never spent the time to validate, but I've read books that have made the claim that most advances in science are made by accident rather than methodical research. Two of the most famous that come to mind are penicillin and the telephone. If the claim is indeed true than breakthroughs in say medical science might be more likely to occur if research was spread wider than what reasonable people would agree is worthy of researching.
posted by herda05 at 12:13 AM on April 1, 2010


it is sad how the research only concerned women and older women specially.

it is a waste of funding overall.
posted by bohonghong at 6:10 PM on April 6, 2010


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