What is the origin of the Fainting Couch?

Dopers, I heard many years ago at a keg party or a history class (are they not one and the same?) that the Victorian era fainting couch came about due to harsh restraints on sexuality during the Victorian period. Sex was for reproduction only and women were expected to feign a faint on these couches so that it would not appear that they were taking part in the act.

I was repeating this important bit of trivia last night and my guest called bullshit on me. We retired to the computer room and I couldn’t find a reference to the origin of the Victorian Fainting couch.

Can any dopers back up my story with a link or am I wrong. If I am wrong I still like the story.


I had always heard it was for women who got out of breath from wearing those tight corsets.

Sorry, AluminumDisc, it’s got nothing to do with Victorian sex, as the fainting couch, or chaise lounge, was around during the reign of French King Louis XV, call it Mid-18th Century, a hundred years before Victorian women were purportedly instructed to “lie back and think of England”.

I can’t help with the fainting couch, but I’ll offer this small comment.

With all the talk about Victorian sexual suppression, would anyone be surprised to learn that men (and no doubt, some women) of that era loved looking at paintings of nude women? I was, until I watched Empire of the Nude: The Victorian Nudes.

You can rent it at Netflicks.

The idea of Victorian sexual suppression is largely a myth. I’m not saying people weren’t uptight about sex, at least more that we are. But it’s been exaggerated all out of proportion.

(I refuse to believe that Victoria told her daughters to “lie back and think of England”. Why the hell do you think she and Albert had so damned many kids, and so close together? They were going at it like bunnies.)

But she was the Queen! She had to think of England all the time!

I thought this thread was going to be about those couches in the extra nook in posher public rest rooms for women. I always called them fainting couches and wished they would use the extra space for more stalls, which seemed much more necessary to me.

When I was breastfeeding, I loved those couches. They’re also useful when you’re with your girlfriend and need to have a little semi-private chat.

When I was taking a tour of an late 1800’s historic house at the top of the stairs was a fainting couch. Our guide said that women’s corsets were so tight that any physical exertion (like walking up steps) would fatigue the ladies because of their restricted diaphragms. Also if you go into old houses from this era notice the stairs themselves. The run/rise dimensions are different than todays. The rise height is lower so that ladies would not show any of their heels when going up steps- showing heels was a no-no.

Thanks for the smack down, I knew I could count on you guys. :slight_smile:


I tried googling for the origin of fainting couches, but to no avail.

I even googled on images of same. Boring pics. Sorry.

Try googling “history chaise lounge”. :wink:

Couldn’t find a picture of the Egyptian daybed, but here’s the Greek daybed, and the Roman version. And a more comfortable-looking Roman.

And a more…luxurious version of the Roman couch. WARNING: Not work-safe if you’re the church secretary down at the Baptist church. Contains (gasp!) bare breasts. :smiley:

don’t let pastor catch ya surfing the internets when you’re s’posed to be typing the bulletin

Nitpick: The original term, spelled correctly in the second part of the URL but not the first, is a “chaise longue,” French for “long chair.” It’s mostly an American/North American adaptation to refer to it as a “chaise lounge.” Searching on both spellings might be required at times.