Weird History
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10 Strange Facts About What Physical Intimacy Was Like in Revolutionary America

Updated January 7, 2020 1.6m views10 items

America is frequently characterized as a land founded by uptight Puritans – people who viewed physical intimacy as a sin to be avoided at all costs. However, early Americans still hooked up. After all, settlers had to populate their new home somehow.

Intimacy during the colonial period was somewhat restricted - and hygiene was a whole other matter to take into consideration - but this time wasn't without its passion. While people weren't quite as liberated as today, premarital relations were known to take place. At the time, though, if you were caught engaging in the act, you were expected to do the socially acceptable thing and marry your partner.

The Founding Fathers themselves were some of the most notable proponents of physical intimacy during the Revolutionary War. John Adams was known for telling dirty jokes, and Benjamin Franklin frequented Philadelphia's notorious red light district.

While the times may have changed, intercourse continues to fascinate the average human mind. And if you lived in Revolutionary America, it was as much an escape as it was a marital duty. 

  • Sex Work Didn’t Really Exist Outside Of Cities

    While one might picture the cities of the past as teeming with sex workers, that wasn't the case in colonial America. Widespread religious beliefs discouraged such work, and the demographics of the population simply didn’t support large-scale operations. While it still existed, the industry wasn't centralized or well-documented in the countryside. There were, however, more employees working in the trade in major settlements, such as New York and Philadelphia.

  • Thomas Jefferson Fathered Children With One Of The Women He Enslaved

    Thomas Jefferson is still celebrated for his liberal ideals, but he kept many slaves throughout his life. One, Sally Hemings, was referred to as his "concubine" in 19th-century documents, though scholars question whether the relationship was consensual.

    Jefferson probably fathered Hemings's six children, which caused scandalous rumors during his presidency. His family maintained that the children, who were light-skinned and looked like Jefferson, were actually fathered by his nephews. After many recent DNA tests, however, it was determined that Jefferson himself was most likely the father of Hemings's children.

  • There Were No Shops Catering To Self-Pleasure

    Toys used for self-pleasure are likely as old as intercourse itself, but there’s no record of toys from America’s colonial era. Given that many Colonists were Puritans, it is likely that toys of this nature weren't discussed and sold publicly.

  • Dirty Jokes And Songs Were Popular

    Colonial Americans' strict morals didn't prevent them from joking about intercourse. Even John Adams wrote down dirty quips he overheard. One told of a man whose friends tricked him into thinking he had contracted gonorrhea from a lady of the evening: 

    He went to the Dr. and was salivated for the Clap. Then they sent him before justice Phillips, then before justice Tyler, in short they played upon him till they provoked him so that he swore, he would beat the Brains out of the first man that came into his shop.

    Another recounted the story of a man who "was a better Prophet than Elijah for he stretched himself on her but once to bring her to Life whereas Elijah did 3 times. He breathed into her the Breath of Life."