The House of Tudor ruled England between 1485 and 1603 and its most famous monarch was the oft-married, larger-than-life King Henry VIII. Henry was well-known for his many executions and lots of romantic romps (in wedlock, to be fair), but is that was sex in Tudor England was like for the rest of its constituents? Not by most accounts — in fact, sex was even more stigmatized and not nearly as pleasant for men or women as it is for most today.
Marriage in Tudor England wasn't fun for most women, whether or not they were wives or prostitutes in Elizabethan brothels. Sex wasn't for pleasure, but for the purpose of giving birth to children. Tudor life offered up some really questionable — and gross — methods of Tudor contraception, and a person's age of sexual activity was pretty much at the onset of puberty for young women... way before either party was likely emotionally ready.
So then, what was childbirth like in Tudor times? Not much better: dirty, isolated, and pretty darn painful. All around, sex was pretty awful back then…
Female Contraceptives Included Vinegar-Soaked Tampons And Wax Seals
Contraception was traditionally illegal in England in Tudor times, and had been for several centuries. Female contraceptives still existed, but they didn't employ particularly advanced methods. Women could insert wool soaked in vinegar into their vaginas. Supposedly, the astringency of vinegar closed off the womb to questing sperm. Women also plugged up the entrances to their vaginas with beeswax seals or blocks of wood. Some guys employed the traditional "withdrawal" method, pulling out before ejaculation, or donned proto-condoms made out of lamb's gut.
Men Tied Knots Around Their Left Testicles To Ensure They Sired Sons
During the Tudor era, the right testicle was believed to contain all of the seed necessary to sire a son. Similarly, the right side of the uterus produced boys. Accordingly, the left testicle was employed to have a daughter. In order to father a son, Tudor men tied knots around the left side of their genitals to restrict the girl-producing sperm and make sure they had boys.
Only The Missionary Position Was Technically Sanctioned
Dating back to the 13th century, it was believed that women had to make sure to keep the sperm inside their wombs; as a result, sex while standing up was considered pointless, as the man's seed was presumed to just fall out. According to St. Albertus Magnus the Great in his writings, Doctor of the Church, “Nature teaches that the proper manner is that the woman be on her back with the man lying on her stomach.” The Church only recommended that people have sex in the missionary position (though of course it wasn't referred to that at the time). Why? People considered it the position most likely to permit a woman to conceive.
Impotence Remedies Included Quail Testicles
If a guy couldn't get it up, apothecaries brewed up tons of bizarre remedies to cure that ailment. One recipe mixed quail testicles with large-winged ants, bark oil, and amber, while beans supposedly helped assist a man flailing in the bedroom. Alternatively, if a witch was causing erectile dysfunction, burning her at the stake should cure that problem. And it wasn't just Average Joes suffering from impotence. By the time of his death, even King Henry VIII had ED.