Linen condoms and mattress curtains: tour exposes historical past of intercourse in Scotland
The chafing doesn’t bear occupied with. A duplicate linen condom secured with a dainty blue ribbon is among the extra wince-inducing props for a brand new exploration of the historical past of intercourse and intimate lives in Scotland.
The opposite materials used to style prophylactics within the Seventeenth century was animal intestine, which was dried then rehydrated on the essential second. The Edinburgh-born diarist James Boswell writes about dipping one in a river earlier than intercourse. He was adamant about their use to thrust back venereal illness, however nonetheless recorded quite a few painful bouts of an infection in his journals.
The tour, rated 16+, is going down all through the summer season at Gladstone’s Land, a restored tenement on the prime of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. In a primary for the Nationwide Belief for Scotland, which is extra normally related to heritage gardens, it presents a thematic historical past of privateness, intercourse work and contraception, spanning from Seventeenth to the early twentieth century and utilizing sources drawn from throughout Scotland.
Will probably be led by the cultural historian Kate Stephenson, who can be the Belief’s customer providers supervisor for the property and a passionate advocate for what the personal interactions of unusual women and men can can inform us about wider historical past.
The occasion shall be a “actual combine”, she explains. “We discuss intercourse work and we do take that very significantly – we’re very sincere about a few of the points that these ladies confronted equivalent to venereal illness, violence and excessive poverty.”
“However a few of it is rather humorous and feels actually fashionable, regardless that it’s 300 years previous. We discuss who’s having intercourse with whom, in what place, how typically. We discuss contraception, however once more that has a extra severe facet as a result of it provides lots of liberation to ladies who can exit and luxuriate in themselves and never be tied to this notion of virginity.”
One recurring drawback is the issue discovering a non-public place when dwelling areas had been so cramped. “It was an enormous situation. Curtains across the mattress would have helped with privateness, however typically beds had been shared with youngsters, with household pets, significantly within the Seventeenth century, so folks appear to have simply grabbed the chance once they had it.”
Sources embody a Seventeenth-century pornographic novel, The Faculty of Venus, which describes “ensuring that you simply lock the door in the event you’re doing something in the course of the daytime”. Stephenson additionally refers to extracts from the diary of a wig maker who had intercourse together with his spouse in the back of the store throughout lulls in buying and selling. “It was all to do with snatching these moments of privateness if you discovered them as a result of common dwelling wasn’t personal.”
The tour additionally examines the historical past of LGBT+ relationships, and the emergence of the primary queer subculture – the Molly homes – with the persecution of homosexual males from the beginning of the 1700s.
Regardless of their vicious hounding in England, there have been no convictions for homosexual intercourse in Scotland within the 18th century. Stephenson believes this was partly due to requirement in Scots regulation for corroboration, which bolstered tolerance of what occurred behind closed doorways.
There are rising calls to scrap this authorized take a look at due to its impression on home and sexual violence prosecutions: “It’s gone from one thing that really protected a group to one thing that’s now a little bit of a barrier by way of some prosecutions.”
Placing collectively the tour has raised as many questions because it has answered, Stephenson concludes, as a result of the historical past of intercourse and intimacy relies on fragments, each by way of written proof and surviving objects.
“There’s a taboo round it nonetheless. There are some wonderful researchers working in particular areas, however no person’s actually joined it up in any public-facing approach earlier than. That’s the beauty of the tour, that persons are going to deliver us extra examples and we are able to increase it as we uncover extra.”