S e x.

Sex in the Regency. My advice would be, don’t go there. Look at our own times. Is there a consensus on sexuality? Hardly, and yet everyone has an opinion. Trying to figure out sexual mores from a distance of almost two hundred years is a little daunting. Because for every discovery you make, there’s an exception, and you just end up even more confused.

Sex was for procreation. Except when it wasn’t. Yes, the aristocracy wanted to be sure that their heirs were actually theirs and not the third footman’s…but it didn’t mean anyone was going to enjoy it. Except for the sorts of misbehavior that were purely for enjoyment. Women were stupid creatures who didn’t have any sort of control over the physical desire they weren’t mean to know about. Anything you, uh, did on your own (see how polite I’m being today!) would cause a whole host of exotic, distressing, life-threatening physical and mental symptoms, and everyone would know what you’d been doing.

And oh yes, let’s not forget the distressing consequences of unprotected sex, particularly for women.

It’s enough to make you wonder why and how the Regency is now viewed as this incredibly sexy period. Because, of course, it is. The clothes, the clothes, celebrating men’s beautiful athletic bodies (never in the history of clothing has a style so blatantly demanded that you look there, yes, there–and I don’t count codpieces because they’re just silly). Wonderful, feminine, floaty, transparent gowns for women with not a whole lot underneath. It’s almost as though fashion was an acceptable means of erotic expression.

Romance has created a sort of never-never Regencyland which is a lot of fun to explore. I think it’s also a lot of fun to incorporate some real history into our fantasy. But how much, and what? Real events, real people? What books have you read that you felt really gave you a sense of being in another time and place?