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...


Alyssia said...

Hi, Heather! INCREDIBLE, informative post--I love soaking up this kind of delicious history. For certain, I hadn't a clue of our past "oneness" with the opposite sex. As if! I love being a woman, thank you very much! *smile*

What I'd like to know is how did you maintain your drive on the road toward publication? I'm guessing like most of us you submitted, received rejections, and yet kept your persistence. What suggestions would you give to those of us still traveling that (sometimes) dusty, rocky road?

Meljprincess said...

Hi Heather,
I just sent you a message when I signed up for your newletter. I can't wait to read SWEET ENEMY!! OMG! I'd love to win a copy!
Your post is awesome. I think women are still restricted and oppressed and treated like slaves. Interesting how in Europe women were treated so badly but now it seems Europe is much more relaxed about sex then we are. We're such prudes! (I'm thinking now of the TV shows I saw in Italy) lol!
How do you feel about what I've said? And what is the most interesting thing you've done as a chemist? Thanks! I WILL read your book and I'm impressed.

Meljprincess AT aol DOT com

Antoinette said...

Hey Heather! can't wait to read your book!!Loved the post!!!

Shannon said...

I'm curious how you bridge the gap in eras for your heroine's sensibilities. Were they handed down by an enlightened family member? Even more so how about Geoffrey? It seems like there might be a Granny running around keeping her granddaughters from being stuffed into the more sensible box, but what about Geoffrey's upbringing leads him to be thrilled with a lusty wife in that era?

Jane said...

Congrats on your upcoming debut release, Heather. It's great to have a little variety and not always stick with missionary. I'm wondering what you've whipped up in the lab.

janie1215 AT excite DOT com

Anonymous said...

Hi heather and Delilah. Thank you so much for the very informative post. I have no idea about the onrness with the opposite sex before I read this post. Really2 love the excerpt of your sweet enemy debut and I love the fact that your heroine is a smart and independent woman heather. OMg I'd love to win a copy and read how your heroine bridge the gap between male and female:).

Heather Snow said...

@Alyssia ~ Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked the post--I sweated coming up with a topic that would live up to Delilah's awesome blog, believe me!

As for my journey to publication, please don't hate me, but Sweet Enemy is my first completed manuscript. Yes, I did have rejections from both agents during the agent hunt and editors during the sale process (and some pretty tough judging on the contest circuit, let me tell you!). But I was very lucky in that regard. That being said, I've had my share of bumps since ~ my acquiring editor left before edits were done and a few other things I don't want to go into on a blog, etc. One of my multi-published friends says that we all have to pay our dues, some pay on the way to their first sale, some pay after :)

Suggestions would really be to continue to treat your writing as important, make time for it, write everyday - even if only a little, always work towards bettering your craft, keep learning, and most of all -- keep believing in yourself. It only takes ONE agent or editor to click with your work to start the ball rolling. (And a fabulous critique group is golden)

Best of luck!

Heather Snow said...

@Meljprincess -- It is interesting that we've become more prudish in America (or at least we hide our kinky sides better!). But maybe not surprising -- the Puritans did leave Europe and head over :)

I do agree that women still aren't considered equal in most of the world--exploited, abused, etc. Even in "enlightened" countries, there are inequalities--less pay, etc. And many times we're asked to compete on the same playing field, yet without appreciation for the wonderful ways women ARE different than men and consideration for what we can offer with our differences. Also, we tend to shoulder more of the responsibility for family, etc., have to be the more flexible ones, yet are counted down in the workforce for that, etc. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that I love being a woman--woudln't trade it!

Thanks so much for coming by.

Heather Snow said...

@Antoinette Thank you so much!

Heather Snow said...

@Shannon Great questions! For Liliana, her father recognized her abilities/talents and fostered them. Of course, he'd married a woman with a talent for healing who actually practiced what she knew, so they were a bit unconventional. However, I think what really gives Liliana her "modern sensibilities" is that she's an empiracle thinker--believes in the scientific method and is willing to look at the world with unbiased eyes.

As for Geoffrey, he was raised by a domineering mother, so he knows women aren't soft. However, I think what really shaped him was his experiences in the war. He may have grown up aristocratic, but he learned about life on the battlefield and seeing people live, love and die in horrible circumstances opened his eyes to what was really important in life. In Liliana, he finds a woman who views the world as he does and wants to make it a better place. He doesn't put women up on a pedestal, but views her as a partner--in and out of the bedroom.

Thanks for coming by!

Heather Snow said...

@Jane -- Ha! My poor husband gets ribbed at the water cooler for having a wife who writes romance. You know, the whole "so, are you the inspiration?" Since I have a chem background, he just says "Well, we affectionately refer to our bedroom as The Lab." and walks away...LOL

Heather Snow said...

@Aretha Thanks so much! I hope you love SWEET ENEMY. I'm glad to hear that you love intelligent, independent heroines because that's why my whole Veiled Seduction series is about--three independent, science-savvy heroines, each with a bit of mystery. SWEET DECEPTION, which comes out in August, features a Regency-era Bones who gets caught up with a Regency-era Bond ;)

Sharyn Lewis said...

So, I wonder how men ended up becoming the more dominant gender in this scenario? Can you imagine if women, instead, were considered the stronger sex?? : )

shardan01 at aol dot com

Dalila G. said...

Hi Heather and Delilah!

What an interesting subject for your post today, very informative and eye-opening. Thanks for sharing with us today.

I just couldn't believe the 'one-sex model' reasoning.....really?!?
Of course the women were on the short end of the stick when it was decide men must and will have the upper hand.

What made you think of this subject for a book? It's a pretty good idea, WTG Heather! Did you originally decide to make the women strong and intelligent right off the bat or did you play around with the idea of maybe a half strong-willed/half fragile kind of woman?

I popped over to your site and signed up for your newsletter, I must stay informed on your latest!
Your video clip for SWEET ENEMY is great, now I really need to know what happens in the book.

Wishing you the best!


Robin said...

That's really interesting! Sweet Enemy looks like such a fun book!


Julie said...

This reminds me of something I just saw on the Discovery Channel--I've forgotten the title of the series, but one episode was dedicated to sex. Specifically, the reason behind the female orgasm. Fascinating stuff! I love that your heroine is a chemist. :D

julieguan AT gmail DOT com

glittergirl said...

Wow this sounds like a great book. I know it must be if Delilah recommends it :-). How did you come across the "one-sex model"? It's an interesting concept. I get the idea of enjoying sex leads to becoming a "fallen woman". Kinda a funny idea in the 18th century considering how many of the aristocracy married women where having affairs on a regular basis. I wonder how many 2nd sons were 1/2 brothers?...

glittergirl54 at ymail dot com

brwneyedbeauty said...

Very interesting article, Heather. It's hard to believe what women went through back then. I can't imagine what it was actually like living a century or two ago. As much as I love History, I'm glad to be a woman in the 21st century ;)

Anyway, I read the excerpt to SWEET ENEMY and it looks great! Can't wait to find out what happens next...

Callene Rapp said...

Looks like a great book. I was curious how you do your research into the values of the time period? Are there any resources you recommend? Other than Delilah's awesome site of course!


Heather Snow said...

@ Sharyn -- I think probably because men whine more than we do! I swear, they are bigger babies than we could possibly dream of being. Combine that with how stubborn they can be...they probably just complained so much, we gave in! :)

Thanks for coming by!

Heather Snow said...

@Dalila G -- Thanks! The idea for the book actually came from a visit to an exhibit at a museum (I hesitate to say what exhibit because I don't want to give away the mystery--it's in the author's note at the end of the book), which sparked an idea for the mystery. Then I created characters to go with that idea.

I knew I wanted strong, smart, independent heroines, in my series. The first, being a chemist, would have to be to brave a man's world. The heroine of SWEET DECEPTION, the second in the series, is much the same. The third heroine, in SWEET MADNESS, will actually be a bit half-and-half...she's never had to be strong willed or use her intelligence, when she was a society darling, but as a widow, she will. It will be interesting to write such a different heroine from the first two. I'm just now starting her story and really looking forward to it!

And thanks for the compliment on the trailer! I did it myself long before the book was done (procrastination!), and watched it many times for inspiration when I was stuck...kept the story on track :)

Heather Snow said...

@ Robin -- Thanks! I hope you love SWEET ENEMY :)

Heather Snow said...

@Julie It IS fascinating! And I'm glad you love that Liliana is a chemist...I really think it sets her apart, not only in occupation, but in how she thinks and behaves. There is no mention of her being a chemist on the back of the book (the blurb I use in my web presence is one I wrote myself), so I really hope people hear word of mouth how interesting Liliana is :)

Thank you!

Heather Snow said...

@GlitterGirl Oh, LOTS of Georgian and Regency brothers were likely halves, at least in the upper classes :) It was really the end of the Regency and into the Victorian that the middle-class morality swept the nation. Like it does so many times in human history, the pendulum swung from one extreme to another--from the loose, crazy Georgian and early Regency period to the repressed Victorian. From the 50's to the crazy 60's, etc. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just find some middle ground? :)

Heather Snow said...

@brwneyedbeauty Me, too, not only because we have more rights than we once did, but because of regular baths!!! :) Glad you liked the excerpt. Hope you LOVE the book!

Heather Snow said...

@Callene -- Actually, it's hard to find a lot of information about it in the Regency period and before...most things of this nature are written about the Victorians, because they went and got all crazy about it all! There are a lot of great books on my shelf that help me paint a picture of what it must have been like, such as Courtesans by katie Hickman, as well as London--The Wicked City and London's Underworld and Madams--Bawds and Brothel Keepers of London, as well as Our Tempestous Day. You can do a lot of reading and sort of get a feel for how things could have been...

And yes, Delilah's site is a FAB resource!

Christy said...

Love this post! Some great food for thought! Never knew about the 'one sex model' but how fascinating! And the book looks FAB Heather! I'm dying to read it!

One question: why did u decide to make your heroine a chemist? :)

Heather Snow said...

@Christy ~ thanks!

I decided to make Liliana a chemist for two reasons -- one, because the mystery necessitated a scientist for her father, and that led me to her following in his footsteps. Second, since my background was in chemistry, I thought I could lend a unique voice to Liliana, even though she "lived" 200 years before me. Making her a chemist opened up all kind of fun ways I could take the story, too!

Thanks for stopping by!

JT Rumple said...

I love heroes and heroines who have modern sensibilities. No matter the time period, there are people who dare to be different and I've always got a soft spot for the people who stay true to themselves and thwart convention. I can't wait to read Sweet Enemy.

Sophie Barnes said...

Hi Heather! Thank you for posting such an interesting article & congratulations on your debut! I'm all for tackling the taboo that sex has become. Even nowadays most people will blush and try to crawl under the table at the mere mention of it - as if it's something dirty, perverse and embarrassing.
So, I'm really looking forward to your book, and if Delilah's supporting you, then the sex must be reaaaaally good...he he...can't wait =D
All the best,

Delilah Marvelle said...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! In honor of this day, we pick the winner of Heather's signed book. And the winner is...Alyssia!!! Allyssia, you will be contacted by me shortly. Second runner up, as promised, wins a copy of FOREVER AND A DAY. And the winner is...Julie! I will be emailing you, as well. Thank you so much to everyone who posted and HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!

Dalila G. said...

Congrats to Alyssia and Julie!
Happy reading! :-)