Seventeenth-Century Sex Manual and Restoration Filth: "The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight" (1680)
"To Madam S――― W――― None Madam can be a candidate with you for this dedication, ’tis your Lordship alone has passed all the forms, and classes in this School, what delights you give, and with what eagerness you perform your Fucking exercises is sufficiently known to the many have enjoyed you, for you Madam like the Supreame Powers have such a communicative goodness, as you scorn monopolizing your Cunt to a single keeper, but have generously refused no Man a kindness who desired it, having often been heard to say ’twas not in your nature to deny satisfaction to a standing Prick, and that ’twas not barely thrusting a Prick into a Cunt, but the well managing of a Fuck makes the Summum Bonum. Tell not me therefore of Messalina, what though she was enjoyed by Fourty or Fifty Men in a day, if your Ladyship could command as many bodies as you have had Pintles between your legs, you might lead as great an Army as Xerxes did into Greece, or if a Pyramide of those standing Tarses [cocks] your Cunt hath subdued were to be erected, I am confident it would exceed that Monument of Sculls erected, by the Persian Sophy in Spahaune, under your patronage therefore this Book comes abroad, and if it have your approbation I care not if other Ladies dislike it, Favourably therefore receive this Dedication from Madam Your Most Humble Servant."
The dedication in The School of Venus, or the ladies delight: Reduced into Rules of Practice (1680)
L'Escole des Filles or la Philosophie des Dames is an erotic book written and published in Paris in 1655.
In the spring of 1655, Parisian printer Louis Piot agreed to print 300 copies of L'Escole des Filles. The editors were Jean L'Ange and Michel Millot. The manuscript was prepared by L'Ange (which does not necessarily mean that he was the author.)
Of course the book shocked and appalled the masses, and on June 12, L'Ange was arrested and all the copies found in Millot's apartment were seized and burned in protest. Millot himself was nowhere to be found and managed to avoided arrest, but L'Ange was ordered to pay a fine of 200 francs and imprisoned for several months.
The oldest editions of L'Escole des Filles that survive today are illegal Dutch impressions, dating from 1667 and 1668. In his diary, dated February 8, 1668, Samuel Pepys reported that he bought a poor-quality edition of L'Escolle des filles, "this idle, rogueish book... that I am resolved, as soon as I have read it, to burn it, so that it will not appear on my list of books."
The text was translated into English as The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight in 1680.
The text's circulation in Britain began shortly after the reformation and in the wake of new laws to restrict the print industry. The outrage surrounding The School of Venus was instrumental in establishing early censorship laws and there were at least two prosecutions brought against booksellers for selling this 'pernicious, wicked and vicious book'; one in 1680 and another in 1688.
The plot line is fairly simple and tells the tale of the beautiful, but naive and virginal Katherine (Katy), and her instruction in 'this misterie of fucking' by her older cousin, Frances (Frank). Frank teases Katy for being “such a Fool [as] to believe you can‘t enjoy a man's company without being Married", and takes great pleasure tutoring Katy in all the in all the lascivious deeds men are woman enjoy together; providing graphic and titillating details throughout (such as describing the scrotum as “something like a Purse”, and “Bollocks" as resembling "Spanish Olives"). Frank teaches Katy about the erections, her own body and, of course, how to have sex. She tells the young woman to find "a Fucking friend… one that will not blab”. So when Roger drops by for a visit, Katy is keen to put into practice all of what she has learned.
In our second dialogue Katy tells Frank of what she and Roger got up, sparing no detail in recounting the various poses, positions (front and back), and acts they got up too (including details of contraception, i.e. pig gut condoms). Frank then continues to educate Katy in other elements of physical intimacy such as the use of warm-milk-filled godemiches to how to use her hands on a man and on herself.
The British obscenity trials were the first to object to a text on secular grounds, rather than religious, political or libellous. The British trials were also unique as the authorities objected to specific passages in the text, rather than the entire publication. Tellingly, the parts that so shocked the authorities related strongly to women's control over their own bodies and pleasure (birth control, sex toys, masturbation etc.), and suggestions that women would make better rulers than men: 'if women govern'd the world and church as men do, you would soon find they would account fucking so lawful as it should not be account a misdemeanour.' And who says porn isn't feminist?
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