Monday, March 5, 2012

Learning Today: The Secret World Of Puritan Sex Toys

Puritans are memorialized in pictures of belt-hatted men and women (even though they never wore belted-hats), in stories of the Thanksgiving turkey (though they didn't eat turkey on the first Thanksgiving), and in the John Winthrop we are forced to read in civics class (all we remember is that 'city on a hill' bit.)

But did you know that Puritans had sex, too? The proof is hard to find, but your humble blog-scholar has discovered it.

They had children! And children are caused by sex. Therefore the Puritans must have had sex.

Because of my ground-breaking discovery, today we're going to be looking at the sex practices of the Puritans.

This is a courting stick. It is not as hot as it sounds. If you were a young man who wanted to woo a young woman in Puritan New England, at some point you would go to the young woman's house. There you would be allowed to have a nice intimate conversation with her. You could talk about the bible, compliment her nose, and make all the promises of the most risque pastoral poems.

In front of the whole family.

The whole family would sit together--the young man far apart from the young woman. But you would be allowed your privacy. How? The courting stick. The stick was a hollow stick six to eight feet long with an earpiece at one end and a mouthpiece at the other. This would enable the man to say intimate promises to the young woman, without him getting dangerously close to her ear.

Because, you know, if you get close to her ear it's a little bit too sinful.

The second practice is the better-known rite of 'bundling.'

At some point in the courtship the two love-struck young people would be able to spend the night together.

But don't get too excited. These are the Puritans we're talking about here. The two lovebirds were separated in the bed with a special 'bundling board' made to discourage over-ambitious hanky-panky. Sometimes, the women's lower-half was bound together with a special 'bundling stocking' to make nocturnal access far more difficult.

The top half of the body, though, seemed to be fair game, based on this contemporary poem.

But she is modest, also chaste
While only bare from neck to waist,
And he of boasted freedom sings,
Of all above her apron strings.
But there's sense behind this strangeness. The Puritans believed that people should chose their spouses freely. So bundling and the courting stick allowed two young people the privacy to get to know one another, while ensuring that enough parental supervision went on to discourage pre-marital sex.

My source for today's post is David Hackett Fisher's Albion's Seed.


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