I was curious as to how the pioneers on the Oregon Trail would have had marital relations, especially given the fact that each night they would circle their wagons and live in a communal space that wasn’t very big imo, at least not big enough for “privacy,” not to mention the threat of Indian attacks and people on guard duty. Did people sleep in the wagons or sleep under the stars for the most part?
Guess my question is how much do you think the people in the Oregon trail wagon trains were getting it on?
FWIW: I had always heard that the couple would do their best to be discreet and the other would do their best to ignore them.
On the other hand, nothing spoils the mood like dysentery.
Having been on extended road trips with members of the opposite sex, my guess is that after the third or fourth day, they weren’t even talking to each other.
I think the “ever-present Injun threat” was a bit played up by Hollywood. If you were, say, four days on the trail west of St. Louis, odds were likely fairly good you weren’t going to run into ANYBODY. (unless it was during one of those times like the land boom or gold rushes or whatever when east-west traffic would have been much higher).
If you were traveling with another party, I would imagine you could just make with the “So, umm… Sally and I are gonna take the horse and some vittles and go have a picnic about 5 miles that way and be back in a couple of hours”.
Also, as you get a bit later into things, you have SOME towns dotting the landscape. So, sure most days you’re out in the wide open, but you also could eventually pull into an Omaha or a Salt Lake City and get a rooming house.
Privacy wasn’t the concept then that it is now. Many a family had the parents in the bed and the children in the trundle. Yet they still had more kids.
Now, if Mommy is a screamer, things might get dicey…
They probably had quiet respectful missionary-style sex under the covers. There are plenty of situations these days where couples are in close proximity to children or other people, they manage.
Well, if it’s anything like “The Appalachian Trail”…
For most of history, several families or several generations of a family lived together in a single room. Travelers, whether they knew one another or not, often shared a bed in inns. You did not flaunt sex in public, but it was treated like a necessary bodily function that happened every day. Privacy is a modern concept.
If there was ever one single defining aspect to the human species, it is that we will find a way to screw. If we didn’t then we wouldn’t be here to ask the question in the first place.
You have died of syphilis.
I knew I shouldn’t have bought so many bullets!
I used to play Oregon Trail all the time in the school library when I was a kid, and I don’t remember anything about marital relations. You must have played a completely different version.
From the “Everything I know I learned from Hollywood” department:
The movie Dances with Wolves seemed to give a pretty realistic view of Indian life. There’s a scene inside a teepee at night, where the visiting white man is sleeping alongside the rest of the family, and the husband and wife start having sex. The visitor just rolls over and turns his back to the couple,and pretends to ignore it.
Sort of the same thing you would do today if you are on a camping trip and somebody next to you takes a piss.
Or if you’re camping, sleeping in a thin nylon tent, and your friends are camping a few feet away in an equally thin un-soundproof tent. You wait till it sounds like everyone’s asleep, then you keep the noise down!
So I’ve been told, anyway…
Large chunks of the world still live with a whole family to one room. The options are:
- Wait till the kids are asleep and be quiet about it. Sex without privacy calls for short, quiet, semi-clothed sessions.
- Wait till the kids are asleep and slip outside/inside/out back/behind the wheel/etc.
- Go out together behind some tall bushes at the local market, watering hole, etc. Many public facilities would have formal or informal places where a couple could have some alone time.
That was in the adult upgrade service pack. They changed it from hunting squirrels to hunting beaver.
Most people slept in tents while traveling the trail, in order to shelter from rain, dew, and the worst of the cold. People still have sex in tents.
And frankly for what it’s worth, I don’t know if there was a whole lot of sex going on anyway. If you walked between 10 and 20 miles each day following your oxen, in a cloud of dirt churned up by their feet, sweating and getting sunburnt as your skin gradually cracks and dries out because there’s never enough water and chapstick hasn’t been invented yet, and you’re constantly thinking about looking after your three kids already and making sure they haven’t done something completely stupid, and thinking about where you’re going to make camp tonight and how tired you already are, and whether or not you’ll be able to buy bacon at the next fort if it isn’t ruinously expensive because some of your meat has already gone bad and you had to pay more than you wanted to get a new axle made a week ago, and you’re fretting because one of the oxen has been favouring its leg like it has something wrong with its hoof and wouldn’t that be just great if it up and died, and you’re hoping you don’t wind up next to the Rogerson tent this evening because the husband and wife had a screaming fight last night and it was positively indecent to listen to, and your youngest son has been bothering you all day asking you if he can ride in the wagon and whining, and oh my goodness is it time to break for lunch already, maybe we can find a shady spot.
Would you feel like sex if you were dirty, dusty, and generally pretty exhausted already? I’m guessing most sex that happened was quick, functional, and quiet. And everyone has already mentioned that when families shared one or two rooms, everybody was pretty familiar with What Married Couples Do and able to ignore it.
I agree. In addition to everything brought up above, the Oregon Trail just doesn’t seem like a good place to get pregnant, what with the disease, potential for disaster wile crossing rivers, running out of game to hunt. Given the state of birth control at the time, I would try to abstain as much as possible to avoid the complications of making a rough cross-country journey with a pregnant woman.