Forever Rowdy: British Desire and Sex

This perspective rarely brings in to account historical accounts of sex from British sources.


As the story goes, when Queen Victoria was approached by one of her newly married daughters about sexual duties, she responded, in a sombre tone ‘Lie back and think of England’.

And the story is 100% incorrect.

In extreme contrast to this story’s implications, Queen Victoria adored sexual intercourse and, when writing of her wedding night she exclaimed, with enthusiasm:

It was a gratifying and bewildering experience. I never, never spent such an evening. His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness. He clasped me in his arms and we kissed each other again and again.

The quote, as it happens, is thought to have stemmed from Lady Hillingdon’s personal journal, in relation to having sex with her potentially syphilis-afflicted husband, and then was further built upon in a 1943 American publication meant as a satire on English sensibilities.

The irony here being that, much like Queen Victoria, Brits love sex…a lot.

British Sex Across the Ages

Due, in part, to the paradoxical and complex approach that Brits have taken to sex over the years, a stereotype of British prudishness has pervaded throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But this perspective rarely brings in to account historical accounts of sex from British sources.

Accounts such as Aristotle’s Masterpiece, which was heavily distributed (under clerk’s counters) from as early as 1684. This book has advice such as the following:

When the husband cometh into his wives chamber, he must entertain her with all kind of dalliance, wanton behaviour, and allurements to venery.

To quote a certain sci-fi icon, ‘oh myyyyy’.

An eighteenth-century backlash again Puritanism saw this period of British history boom in sexual activity too. Advice was readily given for women who found they had illegitimate children, due to the amount of sexual activity being enjoyed, and William Hogarth frequently depicted (with exaggeration) the sexual revelry that people participated in, ‘high’-class and ‘low’.

The Victorian period continued this artistic trend in a feigned attempt at professional interest by adorning their gallery walls with naked men and women given historical names. This meant it was totally fine to gaze at them (for historical appreciation, of course), and romance novels began mass-production, and were met with mirrored mass-interest.

As good ol’ Queen Vic can attest to, sexual pleasure was alive and well in her great nation, and enjoyed with ‘excessive love and affection’.

The Here and Now

As for the current state of British sexual desire, well, like an erect phallus, things have only risen since the nineteenth century.

Vibrators were produced in the nineteenth-century and found their way in to homes throughout the early twentieth-century, the sixties signalled a sexual revolution both in the States and Britain, and the twenty-first century is considered ‘the noughties’ with good reason.

In multiple surveys and studies British desire has been documented. For example, one survey done by UK retailer, Lovehoney, found that Brits purchased 900,000 condoms from them per year and enough lube to fill 268 bath tubs (26,800 litres, if you’re curious).

Yes, the British desire for sex is alive and well, perhaps because, deep down, it has always been present.

Lie back and think of England, indeed. 

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