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The mentioned sexual practice was extremely frowned upon during that period, basically only prostitutes were to do them and even in this case, only with huge amounts of received money, that, in the case they accepted, which in a lot of cases it wouldn't even happen.

Why was this? I can understand that at the time there was a huge pressure of having sex just for procreation, but it's not like it's the only way to enter into a sexual practice that isn't related to procreation, and, in the case of prostitutes, they weren't having sex for procreation in any case, so according to that logic I think they shouldn't mind that much to do it. So I guess there must be some extra reasons, apart from that.

Which are the reasons that practice was so frowned upon?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 13 at 15:02
  • Another source supporting the point about fellatio considered disgustful in 19cent, could be De Sad works. Fellatio is the only kind of sex that is always considered disgustful by his heroes. – Gangnus Mar 18 at 9:07
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As for England and France, and other W. Europe, it is well understandable, because people there were simply horribly dirty. Marquise De Sade, when mentions fellatio, always says about MAKING smb to do it, and mentions the dirty and stinking organ, too.

"For instance, a doctor writing in 1801 remarked that 'most men resident in London and many ladies though accustomed to wash their hands and faces daily, neglect washing their bodies from year to year"

(http://www.alanmacfarlane.com/savage/HYGIENE.PDF)

Don't forget, that toilets appeared in Versaille at the end of 18 century. When Goethe visited Italy in 1840-ties and asked "where is the toilet" in a hotel, he got an answer: "where do you wish".

Nabokov, when travelling Europe during 1920-ties, has to bring an own rubber bathtub with him, for washing facilities for the whole body were not standard in W. Europe even at the start of 20th century.

Of course, Scandinavia was nice exclusion with its saunas.

In Russia, farmers died of hunger often, but they always had +1 building for washing in the yard. And as a result, in Pushkin's diaries a fellatio made by his wife is looked upon as rather a sign of excuse. No horror is meant, definitely.(but it is not Western Europe, of course)

Edit
About from the middle of XIX they started to wash once a month, so they happened to be clean, sometimes at least. They could use oral sex after washing already. So, from the second half of XIX cent. the reason of their disgust was rather inertial.

  • supposedly Henri IV of France proudly proclaimed that he had had 2 baths in his life. first for his baptism, 2nd before his marriage. To avoid sexism, let's assume cunnilingus had a bad rep at that time too. – Italian Philosopher Mar 12 at 21:16
  • @ItalianPhilosopher better simply "oral sex". One term for two. But I am not sure about Henri IV. Wasn't it Lui XIV instead? I am not sure, but I think, the time of total dirt started in 17th century, and in 16th the public and private baths still existed. – Gangnus Mar 12 at 22:38
  • Louis XIV rathen than Henry IV? could very well be. Yes, not sure when the big grossness started. Interestingly, I recall seeing a study somewhere that Roman epidemiology and disease burden was not that much better, despite the baths. Or maybe because of them - close contact in water could present its own problems. – Italian Philosopher Mar 13 at 5:59
  • I doubt very much if people were that dirty. If you don't clean your cock (circumcision was not customary) you'd get serious infections. – Jos Mar 14 at 3:21
  • @Jos You can dislike the information, but it still exists. – Gangnus Mar 14 at 14:14
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The problem with this question is that it is one to which we simply cannot give a meaningful answer.

Before we can answer why an attitude prevailed in the past, we must first establish that attitude actually did prevail in the past.


To illustrate this with a somewhat related example.

In certain modern communities there is a reluctance to perform oral sex. This is often supported by evidence from popular culture (one example being the Dizzee Rascal lyric: “I'm not a Bocat, I don’t like the smell”.

Given that evidence, it is then a legitimate question (although probably an anthropological, rather than an historical, one) to ask why that is the case. What is there in their culture and mores that results in that attitude?


(A second problem here is that the minimum age for Stack Exchange is 13. Questions and answers relating to sexual content need to be carefully worded to ensure that they are age appropriate and comply with the SE Code of Conduct. This necessarily includes links to sources to support assertions!

For this reason, I may not always include links to the sources I mention here. People will just have to use their preferred search engine.)


The assertion

The question claims that fellatio was considered "horrible" during the 19th century in Europe. It makes the claim that:

"... basically only prostitutes were to do them and even in this case, only with huge amounts of received money, that, in the case they accepted, which in a lot of cases it wouldn't even happen."


The problem

The assertions are not supported by evidence.

Your question didn't provide a citation to support your assertions. However, in the comments (now in chat) you mentioned the page on Spanish Wikipedia, which I assume is the page on Felación [Warning: explicit content].

Now, this page does include the claim that you mentioned in the comments:

"En el siglo XIX la práctica de la felación estaba mal vista incluso entre las prostitutas. Está registrado que en Madrid las prostitutas podían echarse en cara la práctica de la felación, en forma insultante, unas contra otras."

Translation (via Google)

"In the nineteenth century the practice of fellatio was frowned upon even among prostitutes . It is recorded that prostitutes in Madrid could be reproached with the practice of fellatio, insultingly, against each other."

The source for this claim is given as:

Tratado de Medicina y cirugía legal teórica y práctica, seguido de un compendio de Toxicología, página 359.

translation:

Treaty of Medicine and theoretical and practical legal surgery, followed by a Toxicology compendium, page 359.

This work has been digitised and is available to read or download as a pdf file.

Unfortunately, if you actually look at page 359 of the cited text, that claim is conspicuous by its absence.

That page does mention fellatio (in a section of the book with the slightly curious title: "Crítica de los artículos del Codigo penal relativos á los delitos contra la honestidad" or "Criticism of articles of the Penal Code relating to crimes against honesty"), but makes no mention of prostitutes or their attitude towards the act (or even to the city of Madrid!).


The counter argument

While reference to oral sex may be limited in many of the sources conventionally cited by historians, we have reasonably good evidence for the practice of oral sex in the nineteenth century in the art and language of the period.

In language we see, for example, a number of vernacular English slang terms for fellatio, some of which have been included in Jonathon Green's Timeline for Slang Terms for Sexual Intercourse.

In art, although I will refrain from including images here, we have works by Achille Devéria and Aroldo Bonzagni which portray oral sex (and other practices) [caution advised if searching for images].

One further, rather well-known, example we might consider is the 'fellatio chair' designed by (or, perhaps, for) Queen Victoria's eldest son, 'Bertie' (the future King Edward VII) at the Le Chabanais brothel in Paris in the late nineteenth century.


Personal Hygiene

Now, even without any supporting evidence for the claim that fellatio was considered to be "horrible" in Madrid (or Spain, or Europe), the argument might be put forward that people were extremely dirty in the nineteenth century, and so of course fellatio would be unpleasant! "Most of Europe simply didn't bathe at that time!"

Against that, we might set, for example, the letter from Napoleon to Josephine in the 1790s where he wrote:

"Je reviens en huit jours; ne te laves pas!"

Translation:

"I'll be back in eight days; do not wash!"

This tells us two things.

  1. It seems that at least some people found the scent of the unwashed body appealing!

  2. Even if she didn't bathe, Josephine did apparently wash herself. Perhaps others did too!

Perhaps not everyone in the nineteenth century was quite as dirty as people often suppose.


On a personal note, I will mention that I have excavated a couple of Victorian cess-pits. The smell is deeply unpleasant and pervasive, but within a very short time the people in the trench hardly notice it.

However, at lunch, other archaeologists on the team do prefer to eat their meal at a distance.

I can also attest that after a day excavating Victorian cess-pits, other commuters will make space for you - even on London's notoriously overcrowded Northern Line!


The point being that, while the people and places would undoubtedly have been malodorous to modern sensibilities, that was the 'normal' for people of the period. The people would simply have been used it.

To say that people would have found it "horrible" is simply projecting modern attitudes onto people of the past.

By extension, arguing that people in the nineteenth century would have found fellatio "horrible" simply because people were dirty is also just projecting modern attitudes onto people of the past.


Perhaps the question that should be asked is rather something along the lines of:

Did the People of Spain in the nineteenth century really find the practice of fellatio so objectionable?

The Spanish Wikipedia page on Felación includes the following claim:

"En el siglo XIX la práctica de la felación estaba mal vista incluso entre las prostitutas. Está registrado que en Madrid las prostitutas podían echarse en cara la práctica de la felación, en forma insultante, unas contra otras."

Translation (via Google)

"In the nineteenth century the practice of fellatio was frowned upon even among prostitutes . It is recorded that prostitutes in Madrid could be reproached with the practice of fellatio, insultingly, against each other."

The source for this claim is given as:

Tratado de Medicina y cirugía legal teórica y práctica, seguido de un compendio de Toxicología, página 359

This work has been digitised and is available to read or download as a pdf file.

Unfortunately, the cited text doesn't actually appear to support the assertion in Wikipedia.

So, did the People of Spain (or anywhere else in Europe for that matter) in the nineteenth century really find the practice of fellatio so objectionable?


As I stated at the start of this answer, until that question is answered, it is simply not possible to offer a meaningful answer to the question of why people felt the practice to be objectionable (or, to use the word in the question, "horrible").

  • The point being that, while the people and places would undoubtedly have been malodorous to modern sensibilities, that was the 'normal' for people of the period. The people would simply have been used it. You're confusing 2 things. Body odor as a whole was probably normal. However the organ in question will be much more dirty and smelly much quicker than the rest of the body (this would also hold true for the feet and armpits, for example). So my claim it's for hygienic reason still holds. – Bregalad Mar 15 at 9:12
  • @Bregalad We know that people washed (see Napoleon's letter) and those would have been exactly the the areas of the body that people washed - for exactly that reason. Some of my grandparents grew up in the Glasgow tenements (just outside the Gorbals slum) at the beginning of the 20th century. They could only bathe once a week (a whole family shared one tin bath of water), so the rest of the time they washed using a bucket. My grandmother used the phrase "Hands, face, and furry bits" to describe the daily routine. Why do you think it was different in the 19th century? – sempaiscuba Mar 15 at 10:24
  • I was pointing out that some specific body parts tends to smell more, and more quickly after being washed. Why do you think it was different in the 19th century ? – Bregalad Mar 15 at 16:06
  • @Bregalad I don't. That is true today, and most people don't consider fellatio to be "horrible". I simply pointed out that we have good evidence for the practice of fellatio from the 19th century and we also have evidence that, even if people did not bathe, they did wash. Given that I've I also shown that the basis for the OP's claim (the Spanish Wikipedia page) is flawed, what actual evidence do you have that the practice was considered "horrible" for hygiene reasons? – sempaiscuba Mar 15 at 16:32
  • and most people don't consider fellatio to be "horrible" What makes you so sure about that ? what actual evidence do you have that the practice was considered "horrible" for hygiene reasons I don't have any, this is pure speculation. That's why I provided comments, no answer. – Bregalad Mar 15 at 21:14

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