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Old 04-12-2012, 04:05 PM
obbn obbn is offline
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Privacy while having sex in the 1800's

Hello Again Everyone,

I have a question. We recently went on a tour of historic homes from the 1800,s in Pensaxola, FL. A few things struck me:

1: The standard of living has gone way up in this country. I am not even talking about modern appliances ans such, just the basic home. The homes we were looking at were those that belonged to the wealthy class back then and today's homes are so much bigger and nicer than what they had then. It is amazing how nice of homes our middle class now has compared to the wealthy of a little more than a century ago.

2. Even the largest homes had a small number of bedrooms. One that we saw that was built in the early part of the 19th century had only a large single room for sleeping. Apparently the entire family would sleep in this one room, the parents on the bed and the children on the floor. We were told by the guide that the family who owned this house had 14 children. During the winter time they all slept in the bedroom, which had a fireplace in it. I have heard that this was common before, which got me to thinking, how did the parents manage to have sex with all the children there? I am assuming that sex was not a major topic of discussion and parents wouldn't want an audience, especially an audience of theirow children watching. So, what happened?'were the children asked to leave during the act or did mom and dad just go at it pretendimg they were alone? I would imagine it would be quite uncomfortable for the kids to see and hear mom getting ridden like a race horse and Dad panting like an out of breathe monkey. Or was it just not considered a big deal back then? For some reason this has me very curious and even tough I thought of asking the tour guide, it didn't seem like an appropriate question considering there were kids in the group.
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  #2  
Old 04-12-2012, 04:26 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Not exactly the same thing (and certainly a fictional example), but there's a scene in Dances With Wolves in which John Dunbar is sharing a tipi with the Lakota medicine man Kicking Bird. Dunbar's still awake when he notices that Kicking Bird and his wife are going at it. As I remember it, Dunbar is uncomfortable, but the Lakota don't seem to be put off by the fact that there's someone else in the "room" with them.

I would imagine that, in a one-room (or one-bedroom) house, everyone over the age of an infant went to sleep at about the same time, so waiting until the kids were asleep may have been challenging.

I also suspect that there may not have been the same hang-ups about kids knowing about the birds and the bees, especially in areas where the family owned livestock, and the kids would see demonstrations anyway.
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:26 PM
grude grude is offline
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There are people where I am that live in one room with kids, its a couple things.

1.You just get used to the lack of privacy in sex or otherwise to some extent, yes the dude on the toilet blocked only by a screen just grunted while pooping just ignore it. Yes if someone really wants to peep on you in the shower they probably can, you get used to it and for relatives where it really is weird(parents and adult children, nearly grown opposite sex siblings) they start using other people's or kind of sex segregating in shifts etc. You've learned to deal with this all your life.


2.They use screens, do it after the kids have gone to school but before work, do it at 3am, do it while the kids are out playing, etc.

A local politician in a bit of tasteless theater said such parents should be charged with child abuse, I thought perhaps he could do his part to help them by sparing a room in his mansion as a "love hotel" for poor couples.
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:34 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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My wife lived in a one bedroom apartment with her parents when she was a little girl in China. According to her, they used the "gee, I hope the kids are asleep" technique.
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  #5  
Old 04-12-2012, 04:54 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Even in cities, many households kept animals, anything from chickens to pigs to cows and horses. And if you didn't you saw them everywhere. Sex was something every kid saw close hand their whole lives.

And so with people. You did everything in one room - including using chamber pots. You grew up with it and did it as an adult. Sex was a fact of life. So was childbirth, although the menfolk might be shooed from the room.

Privacy was a middle-class invention of the mid-19th century. The lower classes couldn't afford such luxuries until well into the 20th century.
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  #6  
Old 04-12-2012, 05:01 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
We were told by the guide that the family who owned this house had 14 children. During the winter time they all slept in the bedroom, which had a fireplace in it. I have heard that this was common before, which got me to thinking, how did the parents manage to have sex with all the children there?
Well, for one, sex with all 14 children would require a very big bed.
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:18 PM
obbn obbn is offline
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Thanks for the replies. Perhaps I am applying today's standards to this. As mentioned above, if one were to do that today I could see DFACS being called in. I guess swinging from the rafters, tied up to the bed sex was out though.
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  #8  
Old 04-12-2012, 05:24 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Originally Posted by obbn View Post
I guess swinging from the rafters, tied up to the bed sex was out though.
Yes; you saved that for when you went to visit your mistress.
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  #9  
Old 04-12-2012, 05:34 PM
Steken Steken is offline
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I've heard a story about how, back in the day when a two-room apartment often had one entire working family in each room, the door between the two rooms was only ever closed for one reason, and one reason only - not sex, as one could perhaps have guessed, but for when the husband was going to give the wife a beating. That was considered private, personal, not for the neighbours to witness, or what have you.

Something I once heard, could well be untrue.
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:43 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grude View Post
There are people where I am that live in one room with kids, its a couple things.

1.You just get used to the lack of privacy in sex or otherwise to some extent, yes the dude on the toilet blocked only by a screen just grunted while pooping just ignore it. Yes if someone really wants to peep on you in the shower they probably can, you get used to it and for relatives where it really is weird(parents and adult children, nearly grown opposite sex siblings) they start using other people's
Using other people's showers? How does that work?
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  #11  
Old 04-12-2012, 05:51 PM
grude grude is offline
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Using other people's showers? How does that work?
Not strangers obviously but friends and family

Ok like our house has two showers on opposite ends on the top floor, when my nephew still lived on one end he had that shower to himself and his teen male friends started using it regularly I assume because having your mom or almost same age sister walking in on you with morning wood or whatever is pretty embarrassing.
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:53 PM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grude View Post
Not strangers obviously but friends and family

Ok like our house has two showers on opposite ends on the top floor, when my nephew still lived on one end he had that shower to himself and his teen male friends started using it regularly I assume because having your mom or almost same age sister walking in on you with morning wood or whatever is pretty embarrassing.
Wouldn't walking over to your friend's house with morning wood be even worse?
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:04 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grude View Post
Not strangers obviously but friends and family

Ok like our house has two showers on opposite ends on the top floor, when my nephew still lived on one end he had that shower to himself and his teen male friends started using it regularly I assume because having your mom or almost same age sister walking in on you with morning wood or whatever is pretty embarrassing.
Do people in one room apartments not even have doors for the bathrooms, then? (You mentioned something about screens in your other post, but seriously, not even a door?)
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:05 PM
grude grude is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heathen earthling View Post
Wouldn't walking over to your friend's house with morning wood be even worse?
You're probably showering at night before going home to sleep.
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  #15  
Old 04-12-2012, 06:16 PM
grude grude is offline
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Do people in one room apartments not even have doors for the bathrooms, then? (You mentioned something about screens in your other post, but seriously, not even a door?)
Not usually if you mean something with a lock, the toilet and shower are usually just depressions into one wall blocked from view by a wooden screen or shower curtain.
Like I said the family has adjusted to this and its usually one group of parents with kids, there is certainly no one interested in watching you use the toilet and teens usually start either leaving or building separate rooms for themselves.
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  #16  
Old 04-12-2012, 06:36 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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As for showers, people didn't bathe every day like they do now. It might have been a once a week event. Saturday night was the time of choice for many so that they would be clean for church on Sunday morning.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:57 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Also, back in history, rich people had 4-poster beds with curtains around them. And servants who slept in the same room. Curtains were partially for warmth, but also for semi-privacy. Sex inside the bed could be heard, but not seen. And that was considered private enough, for that time.
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  #18  
Old 04-12-2012, 08:51 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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Where I live, immigrant workers live in conditions just like those or worse. Recently there was a house fire and a small house was destroyed; four families had to find other lodging.
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  #19  
Old 04-12-2012, 09:02 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is offline
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Remember that it used to get DARK. In a pitch-black room, kids asleep, under a pile of blankets, hurried muffled sex would not be that obvious.
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  #20  
Old 04-12-2012, 09:05 PM
obbn obbn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R. P. McMurphy View Post
As for showers, people didn't bathe every day like they do now. It might have been a once a week event. Saturday night was the time of choice for many so that they would be clean for church on Sunday morning.
The house we toured had what they called a hip bath that was in one of the rooms. It was nothing more than a big bucket that came up hip high. You filled it with water and bathed in the bedroom. When you were finished, we were told, the bath was passed on to the next family member who took a bath in your dirty water. Rinse, repeat..... When finished the water was dumped outside. No bathrooms, outhouses were standards for the day.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:01 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
The house we toured had what they called a hip bath that was in one of the rooms. It was nothing more than a big bucket that came up hip high. You filled it with water and bathed in the bedroom. When you were finished, we were told, the bath was passed on to the next family member who took a bath in your dirty water. Rinse, repeat..... When finished the water was dumped outside. No bathrooms, outhouses were standards for the day.
Yes, and in those days all or many of the children would bathe together.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:20 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
Remember that it used to get DARK. In a pitch-black room, kids asleep, under a pile of blankets, hurried muffled sex would not be that obvious.
This is my thinking. While it's impossible to be perfectly silent having sex, you can certainly be a lot more quiet than the OP's supposition. If breathing and sheet-rustling are the loudest sounds, you're not going to wake the kids up.

I avoided the dorms in college, but it was apparently quite common to sneak a boyfriend/girlfriend into the room at night and have sex without waking up the roommate.

I would also think that people may have had sex at other times of the day. If you live and work on a farm, it's a pretty simple thing to kick the kids out to go play and do chores, buying you some uninterrupted time. Or you ditch the kids in the house and make use of the barn/shed/whatever.

What really blows my mind is the modern idea that children will somehow be irrevocably damaged by the knowledge that their parents are having sex. I doubt anyone ever thought wild, porn-style sex in front of the kids was good, but I think we're at an unhealthy extreme nowadays.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:40 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
I would also think that people may have had sex at other times of the day. If you live and work on a farm, it's a pretty simple thing to kick the kids out to go play and do chores, buying you some uninterrupted time. Or you ditch the kids in the house and make use of the barn/shed/whatever.
I doubt this. Throughout this entire period, in the slums of Victorian England, the sod houses of the American Midwest, and the tenements of immigrants, we're talking about multiple families or multiple generations living in a single room. Many, perhaps most, farms had no barns, and the animals lived in with the people. And this was true in most towns and cities. There was no getting away from others. Men were in the fields all day with the possible exception of meals and barns and sheds were cold and dirty. You had sex in your bed, with maybe a blanket hanging between you and the world.

Quote:
What really blows my mind is the modern idea that children will somehow be irrevocably damaged by the knowledge that their parents are having sex. I doubt anyone ever thought wild, porn-style sex in front of the kids was good, but I think we're at an unhealthy extreme nowadays.
This I agree with. If you told people of that era that children should not be exposed to any sexual image of any kind before they turned 18 they would have thought you were insane.
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  #24  
Old 04-12-2012, 11:20 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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"...Whole families crowded into one or two beds and surrounded themselves with livestock in order to keep warm. So children became participant observers of their parent's sex lives. No one thought of them as innocent creatures or of childhood itself as a distinct phase of life, clearly distinguished from adolescence, youth, and adulthood by special styles of dress and behavior. Children labored alongside their parents almost as soon as they could walk, and they joined the adult labor force as farm hands, servants and apprentices as soon as they reached their teens."

A passage describing the lives of 18th century French peasants from The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History by Robert Darnton ( 1985, Vintage Books ).

So to answer the OP - privacy essentially didn't exist for poor rural folk, at least in this milieu and I imagine it was similar elsewhere. Parents may have waited until later hours to have sex, but I doubt there was much secret about what was going on in such close quarters.
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  #25  
Old 04-13-2012, 03:50 AM
BleizDu BleizDu is offline
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I live in Brittany (in France) and they used to have "closed-beds" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Box-bed .
So in that case I guess you only have to worry about sounds.

As for me, at one point I lived for months in a 200 sq ft flat, we were usually 4 people sleeping in the same room, at most we were 6, and for sex me and my partner waited/hoped for people to be asleep and we did it rather quickly, silently and did more simple stuff than what you can do when you have a lot more room and privacy.
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  #26  
Old 04-13-2012, 05:59 PM
Rayne Man Rayne Man is offline
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Last year we were being shown round some preserved Victorian "back-to-back" houses in Birmingham. They had just had two bedrooms. The girls slept in the same room with their parents, and the boys in the other room. The guide told us that the only "private time" for the parents was when all the children were sent off to Sunday School for a couple of hours. Of course for the other six days of the week the father would be out at work when the kids were attending ordinary school.
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