17. Married couples were encouraged to have regular, passionate intercourse – even if it was only to produce happy, healthy children
In Britain at least, married couples were supposed to follow the example of their Queen and see marital relations in the bedroom not just as a chore but as a source of pleasure. Indeed, regular, joyful intimacy was actively encouraged – within the institution of marriage that is. As one of the best-read relationship experts of the Victorian era noted: “There must be no private reserves on the wedding night, and each one must allow their soul to be as open as their arms.” Notably, the onus wasn’t just on women to make themselves available to their husbands – men were also regularly advised of their duties to their wives.
There was a reason why married couples were supposed to be enthusiastic in bed, as the best-selling An Infallible Guidebook for Married and Single Persons, In Matters of The Utmost Importance To The Human Race makes clear. The Victorian’s written guide on conjugal relations warned that lazy, unenthusiastic or unloving fornication would most likely produce weak, sickly children. Conversely, loving, vigorous acts enjoyed by two eager partners would produce physically robust and intellectually curious offspring. Even with the advances in reproductive health and science in general from the 1870s onward, this belief persisted right until the end of the century.