“Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby/Let’s Talk About You and Me”*

Sex, in general, can be discussed in two different ways: gender and the passionate act. For this week’s readings, the two sexes convene. The chapters of Crossing Borders and His Own Will and Pleasure distinguished the male and female gender roles during the days of American exploration, while the essay on Sexuality in Victorian Courtship and Marriage focused on the perceived passionlessness of Victorian women.

The Victorian times was thought of as a passionlessness time for both men and women. Because of the high value the Victorians put on morality and outwards femininity, they had been thought of as devoid of passion and interest in sex. The Sexuality in Victorian Courtship and Marriage essay, by Karen Lystra, explained the acceptance that people had about their sexuality; they “saw sexual desire as the natural physical accompaniment and distillation of romantic love” (Lystra 229). The courtship permitted sexual activities, except for sex as it is “not to be crossed until after marriage” (Lystra 229). Sex served as an expression of one’s “inner life” and “’authentic’ self”, also as sacred and private (Lystra 230).

As further evidence of the abundance of passion Victorian people had towards their partners, correspondences between married and courtship couples can be examined. Emily Lovell’s letter to her husband, a soldier in the Civil War, expressed her longing to be kissed and cuddled over and over again and for her to kiss and eat up her husband. The husband accepted her desires and responded with, “kiss me dear sweetheart, a thousand warm and loving kisses, take me to your beautiful arms and let me for a while enjoy a heaven upon earth” (Lystra 232). Some have even ventured into more dangerous territory by their choice of words, for example, James Hague’s letter to his fiancé entailed more descriptive actions; “I’ll just squeeze her and hug her… I’ll kiss them again, and her cheeks and her lips and her throat, and I’ll take liberties with her back hair and pull out her hair pins, and tousle and straight” (Lystra 233). These descriptive actions were not limited to the men, one letter showed the descriptive and sexual confidence women had during the Victorian times. Alice Baldwin’s letter to this gentleman showed her prowess and her ability to embrace her inner pure and sexual self by suggesting and describing her physical state, “I am most roasted and my chemise sticks to me and the sweat runs down my legs and I suppose I smell very sweet” (Lystra 233).

In contrast to the other sense of sex, gender roles during the age of the Wild West were kept almost traditional. Women still held the responsibility of keeping her husband pure and virtuous and raising their kids; however, the lack of women population in the west gave them rights they have never had before. Women can now file for divorce and be successful of obtaining their single status back. In creation of the divorce law in California, Hopkins argued for women’s right to dissolve their marriage; “the gallantry of public sentiment sympathizes with an ill-married female” (Hurtado 101). In addition to a more liberal dissolution of marriage statute, women are also priced as commodities to their towns because of the high ratio of men to women. They received expensive gifts, high attention, and better wages compared to the men, since they knew how to sow, cook, teach, and clean. If the women population even increased for a fraction, would this affected the trade at all? Also, did they ever thought about implementing a reproduction protocol to increase their current population, just like Ceausescu did to his Romanian citizens?

There is no direct comparison between the lives of the Victorians to those of the Wild West just because they led separate lives during different times; however, it all centered around sex. Victorians were highly sexualized beings, despite being thought of as passionless, and the people from the Wild West held on to some of their traditional gender roles, while making room to improve the quality of life they lived.



Hurtado, Albert. Intimate Frontiers: Sex Gender and Culture in Old California. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

Lystra, Karen. “Sexuality in Victorian Courtship and Marriage.” In Major Problems in the history of American Sexuality, edited by Kathy Peiss, 229-237. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002

*Salt-N-Pepa. Let’s Talk About Sex. Song. Next Plateau. 1991.

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