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

Aaron Edwards
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America is frequently characterized as a land founded by uptight Puritans, people who viewed sex as a sin to be avoided at all costs. But early American sex definitely existed - after all, settlers had to populate their new home somehow.

Sex during the Colonial period was somewhat restricted, but this time wasn't without its passion. Sure, sex toys weren't widely available, but premarital sex was known to happen. Of course, if you were caught engaging in the act, you were expected to do the right thing and marry your partner.

The Founding Fathers themselves were some of the most notable proponents of sex during the Revolutionary War. Ben Franklin was known for his sexual appetites, and even gave romantic advice to his fellow men. As for Thomas Jefferson, his questionable sex habits led to plenty of gossip.

The times may have changed, but sex remains an eternally fascinating subject. And if you lived in Revolutionary America, sex was as much an escape as it was a marital duty. 

Benjamin Franklin Gave Sex Advice


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Photo: David Martin/via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Benjamin Franklin was known for his suave demeanor - in fact, it's partly why he was selected to win France's support during the Revolutionary War. But he also used that charm to bed women, and was very open about sex.

One of Franklin's letters outlines advice on finding a mistress. His biggest piece of advice is to always go for older women. According to Franklin, their age and wisdom makes them discreet partners, and their faded looks makes them especially grateful for the attention. Plus, while "The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts [continue] to the last as plump as ever."

Sometimes Dating Involved Being Stuffed Into A Burlap Sack


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Photo: Wellcome Images/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

Premarital sex was frowned upon in Colonial America, but that didn't keep it from happening. So, the practice of "bundling" was created to allow betrothed couples to stay at the girl's house under parental supervision. One of the young lovers would be sewn into a sack with their head poking out, to prevent any body parts from touching. There were variations on this tradition, too. The unmarried couple might be permitted to share a bed to keep warm, as long as a board separated them. They might simply be watched closely by parents, too.

These methods weren't always successful. In the mid- to late-1700s, an estimated one in three brides was pregnant when she said "I do."

Commonlaw Marriage Was A Way To Have Sex


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Photo: Swiss National Library/via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In Colonial America, sex was supposed to be reserved for married couples. Luckily, it was easy to get married - all you needed to do was clasp hands and declare that you were husband and wife. This quick and easy method was called "commonlaw marriage" or "handfasting," and it was brought to the New World by English settlers.

Not all of these marriages lasted. Since there weren't legal documents to certify the union and witnesses weren't required, it was all too easy for a "spouse" to split after the marriage had been consummated.

There Were Homosexual Relationships


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Photo: Frederick C. Yohn/via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Given the low ratio of women to men in the Colonies, it's no surprise that many men spent years single. Some, however, didn't seem to mind the lack of romantic companionship from women. According to historians, there were not only homosexual relationships in Revolutionary America, but many of them have been documented through correspondence. Sexual relationships between men were forbidden, but records strongly suggest that same-sex partners existed all the same.