Mar 312010

Continuing the tradition of eccentric and far from “straight and narrow” sex researchers, Stanford magazine has a profile of Dr. Clelia Mosher, a 19th century surgeon and feminist who advocated that women were not debilitated by menstruation. She also made a survey of women’s sexual attitudes long before Kinsey, which mouldered in an archive until 1973.

Mosher’s surveys of women born in 1870 or earlier spoke of widespread sexual ignorance before marriage, but also a strong interest in mutual sexual pleasure as a key aspect of companionate marriage.

Unlike Mosher’s other work, the survey is more qualitative than quantitative, featuring open-ended questions probing feelings and experiences. “She’s actually asking these questions not about physiology or mechanics—she’s really asking about sexual subjectivity and the meaning of sex to women,” Freedman says. Their responses were often mixed. Some enjoyed sex but worried that they shouldn’t. One slept apart from her husband “to avoid temptation of too frequent intercourse.” Some didn’t enjoy sex but faulted their partner. Mosher writes: [She] “Thinks men have not been properly trained.”

I’d love to see if there are any interest in or fantasies of kinky sexuality in these interviews.