Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Beginnings of Sexual Repression in Polite Society…

My dearest Readers,
I have the incredible pleasure of introducing a fellow historical romance siren who will not only be giving insight to a topic that beautifully fits my blog but will be doing a signed book giveaway in honor of her incredible debut, SWEET ENEMY.  Read her fantastic post, post a question pertaining to her post with your email address and you'll be entered to win.  Both US and International may enter.  Winners will be picked on Valentine's Day.  And seeing that it is the month of love, I'll also throw in a signed copy of FOREVER AND A DAY to a second runner up.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Thank you so much, Delilah, for having me. February is very exciting for me this year because my debut Regency, Sweet Enemy, is being released on February 7th. I can’t think of a better place to kick of my month than visiting A Bit O’ Muslin!
RT Book Reviews gave Sweet Enemy 4 stars, saying, “In the first in the Veiled Seduction series, newcomer Snow makes a mark on the genre. Her characters may be 18th century, but their sensibilities are modern. The plot, with its tinge of mystery, matchmaking and a bit of mayhem, will warm readers’ hearts.”
When I first read that description, I thought “Hell, yes, my characters have modern sensibilities! My heroines actually enjoy sex, in the daytime, with their clothes off, and in positions other than missionary!” Because we all know that our unfortunate sisters of centuries gone by were restricted and oppressed when it came to expressing and enjoying their sexuality. Think chastity belts…think dresses that covered even one’s ankles so as not to incite men’s lust…think of mothers advising their soon-to-be-married daughters to “close your eyes and think of England.” If our poor characters were truly women of their time, they would be married off as virtual broodmares and tupped quite politely, often in the dark without even having to remove their night rails, while their husbands saved the fun stuff for their mistresses…at least in Polite Society. And what fun would that be to read about???
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the prudery, repression and social restrictions that began towards the end of the Regency period and that marked the Victorian period are vastly different than how sex, and the woman’s role in it, was viewed before then. And you may be surprised at one theory of how and why it all came about.
Prior to the 17th century, women’s and men’s bodies were seen as virtually the same. This “one-sex model” theory basically stated that a woman’s reproductive organs were the same as a man’s, only internal whereas a man’s was external. It was also thought that both men and women produced seed crucial for conception, so both male and female ejaculation was required to produce a child.
Now, the scientist in me screams, “How could they have thought something so ridiculous? Surely some woman who turned up pregnant without having orgasmed would have decried this, LOUDLY!” But that’s not what’s important in this discussion. The really interesting thing to take from this time is that a woman’s sexual pleasure was considered vital…crucial, even, to the survival of our species. Women were seen, and accepted, as sexual beings equal with men, at least in the bedroom. To have a lusty, voracious wife was a positive thing.
So what changed?

Londa Shiebinger, of Stanford University, who specializes in the relationship between gender and science throughout history, would argue that it was politics—specifically, battles over women’s rights. If the “one-sex” model was allowed to stand, and women were biologically equal to men, why should they not have the same rights as men? Well, you can see what a problem that might present—at least from the male perspective. So a push to have women and men defined as opposite sexes began.
Ms. Schiebinger argues “Natural rights could be countered only by proof of natural inequalities. There were endless new struggles for power and position in the enormously enlarged public sphere of the 18th and particularly 19th centuries: between and among women and men, and between feminists and anti-feminists.”
So the “one-sex model” was redefined to a two-sex model, with women and men no longer variations of the same sex. Differences were stressed. Gender roles were defined. And women came out on the losing end.
By the late 18th century, the female orgasm was relegated to unnecessary (the bastards!), and things went downhill for us sexually from there. Passion, lust and desire were discouraged in young ladies, to be avoided lest she become a loose or fallen woman—at least until the modern sexual revolution, that is.
So I say, yes, my characters have modern sensibilities—or at least “pre-18th century sensibilities”! I can promise you that Liliana, the heroine of Sweet Enemy, has very “pre-18th century sensibilities”. A scientist herself, she also has a love for experimentation. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think she and Geoffrey try the missionary position even once in the book. And the Earl, for his part, is also a man outside of his time—not only does he support Liliana’s work and encourage her to use her brilliant mind, he is thrilled to have a lusty, voracious wife. And that, I hope, you will have great fun reading about!

Beakers and ball gowns don't mix, so when a lady chemist goes undercover as a husband hunter to investigate the earl whose family she thinks may have murdered her father, romance isn't part of her formula. But it only takes one kiss to start a reaction she can't control.
"Historical intrigue and heart-pounding passion make Sweet Enemy a great read. Romance fans will love it." ~#1NYT Bestselling Author JULIE GARWOOD
Available wherever books are sold on February 7, 2012. Find out more at

Heather Snow is a historical romance author with a degree in Chemistry who discovered she much preferred creating chemistry on the page, rather than in the lab. She is forever trying to wrangle her left and right brain to work together (some days with more success than others!), but if her two sides had to duke it out, left would win every time—which can be a creative challenge. Luckily, she loves challenges…she just goes about solving them analytically.  Heather lives in the Midwest with her husband, two rambunctious boys and one very put upon cat.  She sincerely hopes you find her stories have just the right chemistry...