Research is the crux of any good historical romance, unless of course you have firsthand knowledge. If you do, we need to talk because I have a ton of questions! Anyhoo, even for a history lover like myself, research is important. Here’s the thing, it goes way beyond the basics of dates and events. We’re talking about knowing what kind of fabric was popular for dresses, menswear, or housewares. Knowing about societal rules and expectations that govern a character’s actions and even basics like what did they eat, how did they bathe, or use the restroom, etc.
I’ve lost days clicking around the interwebz doing research, but nothing prepared me for researching historical sex. The research was fascinating and…uh…stimulating. *grins* Who knew sex toys have been around for centuries? I never thought about it much until I started asking questions as I wrote. If you’re interested I did a whole post on this topic on my site.
But what really fascinated me is the Victorian roots of BDSM. Now, many of the practices associated with BDSM have been around for centuries. Spanking, flogging, etc. aren’t new. I think we all know the Greeks and Romans too decadence and pleasure to all new heights. But the widespread practice of BDSM is solidly rooted in the Victorian era. With sexual repression, along with all the other repressive behavior of this era, at a peak it is not surprising to find strong roots here.
Since men were pushed to refrain from masturbation in order to save their souls, prostitution was rampant. Women who were not part of the sex industry were a non-entity. There was no cautioning about masturbation because it was assumed they had no sex drive. They were simply the conduits for reproduction. A vessel to be filled. So you can see how this environment was ripe for some secret kink to develop.
In England (ad I would assume everywhere) there were houses that focused on nothing but caning and birching their clients. Sex may or may not have been included. Other forms of punishment were practiced that carried a sexual edge, such as figging. This is the practice of placing a finger of ginger in the rectum (feel free to Google this to learn more). The punishee would then often be spanked or flogged in addition to the ginger.
Keep in mind that the people often wielding the whips were women and their clients were men. (Not saying this was the only arrangement, but it was the most common). This domination and punishment of men by women speaks to the reversal of societal roles. The men sought the domination/punishment as 1) a retreat from their responsibilities as the family provider, and 2) perhaps as punishment for either practicing onism (self-pleasure) and/or frequenting prostitutes. Again, not saying these are the only reasons, just the obvious extrapolations. Whatever the reasons, they clearly found pleasure in their activities.
So, long before “safe, sane, and consensual” existed before things were so well defined, BDSM was a burgeoning practice. I’m curious what have you learned about history from research for a writing project or in reading a historical romance?
Love Revealed by Sorcha Mowbray [link to buy]
Lady Katherine Drummond plays by society’s rules, even after the Ton turns on her. Shunned by her peers, she keeps up appearances by day but allows her true self out in the privacy of The Market. There, in the arms of one man, she comes alive. So much so, she signs a contract to be his for six months. Despite never having seen his face and knowing him only as Sir, she fears losing her heart to the man who breaks through her defenses.
Lord Raymond Tarkenton, the Earl of Heathington, despises being one of the most sought after bachelors of the Ton. He could never ask a woman of his circle to submit to his sexual needs, and a mistress would never be an option. For now, one masked woman at The Market holds his undivided attention. When he realizes that his masked lover and Lady Katherine Drummond are one and the same, he must find a way to convince her that they are bound together by more than the straps at her wrists and the contract they signed. He must reveal himself and his love to her. But will she accept him for more than a sexual escape.
“Why is it you were compelled to make me wait when you were aware I was here and ready? This is not how we should start this arrangement.”
“I was delayed.” She met his gaze, hers teamed with desire, hope, defiance, and perhaps even a tinge of fear. Mostly promising reactions, the defiance would need to be addressed.
“You will of course be punished.” He paused. “When I am ready.”
“Yes, Sir.” Her eyes lit up with his pronouncement.
“Not when you are, and it is clear you are.” Yes, Kat was the exact woman he needed in his bed. She fit him, was a perfect foil for him, for his base compulsion. No. He must be caught up in the moment. She was no more than a desirable woman.
He sat next to her on the bed and caressed the outer edge of one breast. “It was good of you to tell me the truth, Kat. You must always tell me the truth, just as I will always tell you the truth. Do you understand?”
“I will always be honest with you, Sir.” Surprise flitted across her features as the truth of her vow rang through her words and warmed him.
“Do you trust me, Kat?” Curiosity got the better of him.
She hesitated, her thoughts whirling like crazy behind her beautiful eyes. “No.” She finally responded and dropped her gaze. He stopped caressing her soft flesh.
Trepidation reared its head before logic squashed the anomaly. His pulse thrummed through his veins. “And yet you let me restrain you. Perhaps you trust me more than you think?”
She glanced up at him. “Maybe a little.”