Category Archives: Sexuality

1878: Man unfairly arrested for loitering in Paris urinal

A Paris urinal c.1880 – not much privacy for anything really

In the 1870s, Paris police and civic leaders railed against what they considered a significant problem: men soliciting sex from other men at public urinals.

Consensual homosexuality was not illegal in France (it was decriminalised during the Revolution) but public displays of homosexual behaviour were nevertheless prosecuted as “offences against public decency”. Between 1870 and 1872, more than 100 men were arrested for loitering or acting suspiciously around street toilets in Paris. In 1876, police even found Count Eugene de Germiny, a conservative member of the city council, in a lavatory clinch with a young man named Pierre.

After de Germiny’s arrest, the concern about nefarious activities in public toilets reached fever pitch. One Paris physician, Maurice Laugier, attempted to penetrate the hysteria with an 1878 essay titled Du role de l’expertise médico-légale dans certains cas d’outrage public a la pudeur (“The role of forensic evidence in certain cases of outraging public decency”).

Dr Laugier described several cases where men with verifiable medical conditions were unfairly dealt with by police, including one man:

“…suffering from a urinary tract infection… who was observed and questioned by the police [for his] very prolonged stay in a urinal and the manoeuvres that he was exercising on his penis.”

Men suspected of dubious activity in or around public toilets, wrote Laugier, should be questioned about their medical history and afforded a full medical examination before being charged or presented for trial.

Source: Dr Maurice Laugier, “Du role de l’expertise medico-legale dans certains cas d’outrage public a la pudeur” in Annales d’hygiene Publique et Medecine Legal, 1878. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1587: Mrs Wanker and the Widow Porker carted for “whoredom”

During the Tudor period, the back-ends of carts often doubled as places of punishment for minor criminals and delinquents. Though the exact origins are unclear, to be dealt with at the rear of a cart marked one’s fall from civilised society. Scores of prostitutes and adulterers were ordered to be “tied to a cart’s arse” and either whipped there or paraded around town for public humiliation.

In 1555, a London man named Manwarynge was “carted to Aldgate with two whores from The Harry, for bawdry and whoredom”. In 1560, “the woman who kept the Bell in Gracechurch” was carted for pimping. Sir Thomas Sothwood, an Anglican priest, was carted for “selling his wife”. In North Carolina, Mary Sylvia was found guilty of blasphemy and “carted about town with labels on her back and breast, expressing her crime”.

Some were also punished for slanders involving carts. Sir Thomas Wyatt was thrown into prison in 1541 for telling others that Henry VIII should be “thrown out of a cart’s arse”.

Another brief but interesting mention of ‘carting’ comes from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where in 1587:

“John Wanker’s wife and the Widow Porker were both carted for whoredom…”

Source: Benjamin Mackerell, The History and Antiquities of the Flourishing Corporation of King’s Lynn &c., London, 1738. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1889: Standing on one foot leads to masturbation

Mary Wood-Allen – both feet on the ground, girls.

Mary Wood-Allen (1841-1908) was an American physician, paediatrician and temperance advocate. Like many others of her generation, Wood-Allen was a social purist obsessed with the promotion of cleanliness, morality and wholesome thoughts.

By the 1890s, Wood-Allen was a public speaker in high demand and a prolific author of guidebooks on adolescence. Her message was strident and consistent: children must be protected from premature development, precocious sexual thoughts or activity and, above all, masturbation.

In her 1889 book What a Young Woman Ought to Know, Wood-Allen walked young girls through life from puberty to marriage, outlining the ‘cans’ and ‘cannots’ of these formative years. Reading novels, for example, was a strict ‘no no’:

“It is not only that novel-reading engenders false and unreal ideas of life, but the descriptions of love-scenes, of thrilling, romantic episodes, find an echo in the girl’s physical system and tend to create an abnormal excitement of her organs of sex, which she recognizes only as a pleasurable mental emotion, with no comprehension of the physical origin or the evil effects. Romance-reading by young girls will, by this excitement of the bodily organs, tend to create their premature development, and the child becomes physically a woman months, or even years, before she should.”

Another forbidden act was the seemingly benign habit of standing on one foot. According to Wood-Allen, continually favouring one foot could lead to uterine displacement, menstrual difficulties and constipation. That problem itself exerted pressure on sexual organs, something “known to incite self abuse”:

“..The common habit of standing on one foot is productive of marked deformities of both face and body and of serious displacements of internal organs… Standing continually with the weight on the left foot is more injurious than bearing it on the right foot, for it causes the uterus and ovaries to press upon the rectum and so produces a mechanical constipation, especially during menstruation.

Source: Dr Mary Wood-Allen, What a Young Woman Ought to Know, London, 1889. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1891: The foreskin: an “evil genie” that will land you in jail

Peter Remondino (1846-1926) arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1850s and was raised in rural Minnesota. He later studied medicine in Philadelphia and served as a doctor during the American Civil War.

In the 1870s, Dr Remondino relocated to California and became one of San Diego’s most prominent and sought after physicians. Though best known for his specialisation in respiratory illnesses, Remondino was also a vocal advocate for circumcision. His central argument was that the foreskin was a redundant organ. When man was a hunter-gatherer, the foreskin:

“..provided him with a sheath, wherein he carried his procreative organ safely out of harm’s way during wild steeplechases through thorny briars and bramble… This leathery pouch also protected him from the many leeches, small aquatic lizards or other animals that infested the marshes or rivers… or served as a protection from the bites of ants or other vermin…”

But now, Remondino argues, the foreskin is nothing but trouble, exerting:

“…a malign influence in the most distant and apparently unconnected manner. Like some of the evil genies or sprites in the Arabian tales it can reach from afar the object of its malignity, striking him down unawares in the most unaccountable manner; making him a victim to all manner of ills, sufferings, and tribulations… and other conditions, calculated to weaken him physically, mentally and morally… to land him perchance in the jail, or even in a lunatic asylum.”

It goes without saying that Dr Remondino recommended circumcision to treat or circumvent a number of ailments, including masturbation, nocturnal emissions, bedwetting, venereal diseases, timidity and insecurity, even cancer. Remindino also called for the “wholesale circumcision of the Negro race”, a measure he claimed would curtail the interest of black men in white women, reducing a great deal of racial tension and a “great number of lynchings”.

Source: Dr Peter Remondino, History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the President, Philadelphia, 1891; “Questions of the Day: Negro rapes” in National Popular Review, v.4, January 1894. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1914: Women’s suffrage: a sign of homosexual tendencies

Wilhelm Stekel (1868-1940) was an Austrian doctor and psychologist who specialised in sexuality and fetishism. In the first decade of the 1900s, Stekel became a disciple of Sigmund Freud – both lived in Vienna and participated regularly in discussion groups and lectures.

Writing in 1914 with Dr Samuel Tannenbaum of New York, Stekel argued that an individual’s sexual preference was “betrayed” by their choice of position:

“In many cases homosexual betrays itself in the mode of intercourse adopted by the patient. [Homosexual men] prefer to take the position normally occupied by the woman… [Homosexual women] show similar tendencies; they experience an orgasm only when they are on top… Some of the perversions, e.g. fellatio, cunnilingus, are indicative of homosexuality…”

He also described more gender-specific signs:

“Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, a [homosexual] man has his beard shaved off, or he suddenly begins to take an active interest in sports as permit him to see naked men. He becomes passionately fond of prize-fighting, boxing, sun baths, Turkish baths, gymnasia…”

Homosexually-inclined women will also:

“..begin to take an interest in the movement for women’s rights. In a very large percentage of active suffragettes, the driving force is unsatisfied sexual desire… Only very rarely, if ever, do women whose libido is satisfied take any interest in the suffragette movement.”

Dr Stekel committed suicide in 1940, taking a fatal dose of aspirin to relieve chronic pain caused by his inflamed prostate.

Source: Drs Wilhelm Stekel and Samuel Tannenbaum, “Masked homosexuality” in American Medicine, v.20, August 1914. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1965: “Move over, this is your president”

History is replete with stories about the sex lives of US presidents, particularly Warren Harding, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. One president whose bedroom antics have attracted less scrutiny is Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson.

According to his friends, colleagues and former employees, LBJ had an insatiable sexual appetite, backed by a considerable ego. This appeared to begin at college, where the future president was fond of exposing or waving his penis which he nicknamed “Jumbo”.

During and after his presidency Johnson engaged in scores of dalliances and affairs, fathering at least one illegitimate child. He was notoriously jealous of Kennedy’s reputation with the ladies, once claiming to have “had more women by accident than Jack had on purpose”.

Unlike Kennedy, however, Johnson was devoid of youthful good looks, seductive charm and patience. As a consequence, Johnson’s sexual propositions could be direct and confronting. One rather unnerving example of this was recalled by Carl Rowan, a high-ranking government official during the 1960s, and involved Johnson and a pretty young White House secretary:

“In 1965, when I headed the US Information Agency, I was approached by a shaken White House employee who told me of her first duty trip to the Texas ranch where President Johnson often retreated. She said she awakened in the wee hours of her first night there in terror, certain that someone was in her room. When a little pencil flashlight was shone on her face, she was too terrified to scream. Then she recognised Johnson’s voice saying ‘Move over. This is your president’.”

Intimidated and probably petrified, the woman complied with Johnson’s instruction. According to Rowan, she chose not to make a complaint against the president but did lodge a request a new job out of his reach. Rowan informed the White House and arranged for her to be transferred to the State Department.

Source: Carl Rowan, cited in Buffalo News (New York), January 28th 1998. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1891: Oysters lead to teenage pregnancy, twins

In February 1891, a Mr Lee Viner of London sued Ernest Franks, a travelling salesman from Fulham, for the seduction of his teenaged daughter, Maud.

According to testimony given by Franks and others, Maud Franks had caught his eye at a metropolitan railway station. She was 18 while Franks was 66 and married. He obtained Maud’s address and later sent her notes and presents, asking for a meeting. When she agreed, he took her to an oyster house off Oxford Street.

The seduction occurred after Franks bought her oysters, champagne and brandy and soda. The end result of this liaison was that Maud Viner fell pregnant and delivered twins. According to one press report, the presiding judge said that:

“..the proceedings in this case were about the most foolish he had ever heard of. Nothing could be more ridiculous than for an old man like the defendant to go trotting about after a young girl like the plaintiff’s daughter. It had been stated in evidence that the defendant caught a cold while looking for the young girl at the Empire [Club]. It served him right. It would have been a good thing if he had caught a few more colds in such discreditable adventures.”

The jury found for the plaintiff, Mr Viner, who was awarded damages of 100 pounds. The fate of Maud Franks and her illegitimate twins is unknown.

Source: Various, inc. Liverpool Mercury, February 9th 1891. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1712: Edmund Harrold records his marital love-making

Edmund Harrold owned a barber shop and wig-making business in Manchester in the late 17th and early 18th century. Between 1712 and 1715, Harrold was also a prolific diarist, making daily notes about his business, his customers and his social life. Harrold was not independently wealthy like many other diarists – his business was not profitable and he spent a good deal of his income on drinking binges, which are often mentioned and lamented in his diary.

Harrold’s chronicle also lists brief but informative accounts of his sexual liaisons with his second wife, Sarah. According to Harrold they made love in both the “old fashion” – missionary position – but also in “new fashion”, though he does not elaborate on what this entailed.

In March 1712, Harrold wrote that “I did wife two times, couch and bed, in an hour and a half’s time”. On another occasion, he “did wife standing at the back of the shop tightly”. Another time they copulated on a bed on the roof, and still another time he mentions having sex “after a scolding bout”.

Not unsurprisingly, Sarah was frequently pregnant. In just under eight years of marriage she bore Harrold six children, though only two survived. The birth of her sixth child took its toll on Sarah’s health and she died in December 1712. According to Harrold’s diary his wife “died in my arms, on pillows… She went suddenly and was sensible until one-quarter of an hour before she died”. The newborn child, also named Sarah, also died four months later.

Harrold was distraught and resolved not to remarry, however, by March 1713 he admitted that his sexual urges were getting the better of him:

“It is every Christian’s duty to mortify their unruly passions and lusts to which ye are most prone. I’m now beginning to be uneasy with myself and begin to think of women again. I pray God, direct me to do wisely and send me a good one.”

Harrold did marry again. In June 1713 he wed Ann Horrocks, a customer who had called on him for a haircut – but she too was dead by early 1715. Harrold did not marry a fourth time and died in 1721, aged 43.

Source: Diary of Edmund Harrold, Wigmaker, 1712-15. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1842: Masturbation kills, writes Dr Alfred Hitchcock

In 1842, a Boston medical journal published a short essay titled ‘Insanity and Death from Masturbation’. Its author, the appropriately named Doctor Alfred Hitchcock, claimed that:

“The mass of community remain profoundly ignorant on this subject and are ready to attribute diseases from this habit to any but their true cause. Within ten years a number of fatal cases have fallen under my observation, where death was clearly traceable to that cause alone. In each of these cases, friends and neighbours assigned ‘disappointed love’ as the fons et origo mali [source and origin of the evil].”

Dr Hitchcock described one particular case at length, a 23-year-old man who came to him in 1840. The patient suffered from nervousness, fatigue, anaemia, sleeplessness, poor posture, dry skin, body odour and bad breath. He eventually confessed to masturbating for six years and Dr Hitchcock immediately diagnosed this as the cause of his illness.

The patient refused to give up self-pleasure, however, and his condition deterioriated until his death five months later. Dr Hitchcock attended an autopsy on the corpse, noting in an I-told-you-so manner that the testicles were dried and shrivelled while the abdomen, intestines and lower spine were all infected and surrounded by pus.

Dr Hitchcock later headed the American Medical Association’s committee on insanity and worked as a battlefield surgeon in the US Civil War.

Source: Dr A. Hitchcock, “Insanity and Death from Masturbation” in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. 26, June 1842. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1617: William Zane too free with his private member

In 1617, Somerset magistrates heard several charges against William Zane, a horse-breaker from the village of Long Sutton, near Somerton. Zane had committed a series of public indecencies involving women and young girls. The worst of these was the seduction of Ann West, with whom he had fornicated after promising marriage. He later collected a ten pound dowry from her parents.

According to testimony, their sexual affair was revealed when Zane arrived at the West home and:

“..called for Ann West, she being then at the street door, and because she came not presently unto him, he came forth to her and pulled her into the chamber by the arm, then having his private members showing out of his breeches.”

This was not the first time Zane had been free with his genital endowments. Several weeks earlier he:

“..came into the house of William Parsons, being one of his neighbours, finding the wife of William sitting at her work, drawed out his private member and laid it upon her shoulder and wished aloud that her shoulder was another thing…”

On another occasion, Zane thrust his hand under the skirts of a young girl, making her cry. When the girl’s mother confronted Zane in public and dressed him down, he responded by sneaking into her yard and soiling her clean washing with “filthy ordure and dung of people”.

The magistrates found Zane guilty and sentenced him to a series of public whippings. He was also ordered to repay the ten pounds to Ann West’s parents and to pay two shillings a week for the upkeep of her child. Ann West was also sentenced to a whipping for premarital fornication.

Source: Somerset Quarter Session Rolls, n.27, 1617. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.