Tales of Ribaldry


A saucy little tale to titlilate and delight.

Hot males, rambunctious females and the rise of Girl Power: Tony Perrottet's rambling account of his visit to the estate of the Georgian-era rake Sir Francis Dashwood recreates the apparently great days of sex-mad aristocrats:

A couple of years ago, while researching a treatise on salacious European history, I discovered the phantasmagoric wonderland of sex that was Georgian Britain, the era from 1714 to 1837. Long before the heyday of Austin Powers, debauchery proliferated up and down the rain-soaked land, fueled by riotous boozing and self-indulgence. "There was a gusto about 18th century vice unmatched before or since," writes historian Fergus Linnane with tangible nostalgia, in London: The Wicked City. A flood of wealth from the budding empire allowed the leisured classes to fulfill their carnal fantasies without restraint. And perhaps the most striking feature of the age was the explosion of British sex clubs, where a colorful array of rakes, libertines, courtesans, and aristocratic adventuresses dressed up in outrageous outfits for kinky ceremonies. Each club accumulated its own peculiar regalia, such as erotic drinking vessels, sleazy curios, and obscene ballot boxes modeled on human torsos (yay or nay votes going into respective orifices). There would be ribald toasts, poring over the latest dirty books, and visits from comely young "posture molls," who posed nude on tables and gyrated like modern lap dancers. Special rooms were provided so members could retire in pairs or groups, and ladies of fashion could unwind with handsome rent boys. Surviving accounts suggest that some clubs would spice their orgies with a dash of Satanism, while others focused on elaborate rituals of self-abuse.

The narrative (from Slate) starts off with a locket containing pubic hairs clipped from "the Mons Veneris of a Royal Courtesan of King George IV," then detours into Perrottet's own present-day journey through a Little England time capsule of quaint villages, Bakelite phones and country estates, yet it's entertaining from start to finish, winding through such curlicues as the efforts by Dashwood's descendants both to rehabilitate and to cash in on the reputation of their roué ancestor.

Perrottet helps out a little with the current Baronet Dashwood's special pleading, and in the course misses an opportunity to avoid taking cheap shots at the Victorian period. Note how the "posture molls" were both "comely" and "young." Apparently during the Regency no lap dancers were single mothers with daddy issues. It is possible to celebrate the awesomeness of Georgian priapism without engaging in unearthly fantasy.

And it's not fair to crank up the Phonautograph to repeat tired snipes about the "prudish Victorian era" that makes us "often forget that the pre-Victorian era was more lusty than today," and even trampled the buildings of the randy clubbers under "ponderous Victorian institutions." Whatever you want to say about the period of Victoria's reign, the population curve indicates that people were fucking in England during those soot-choked days of bitterness. Historians, check my work: The Victorian period was also characterized by vast and enduring improvements in the rights of women, and a substantial increase in social mobility in British society. Yet when the current Baronet wants to defend his ancestors (not that they need to be defended), he does so on the grounds that they were the Right Sort:

"Yes, they all dressed up and drank a hell of a lot, and, yes, there were women involved. But look at the men who were members. They were erudite; they loved the classics, astronomy, and astrology. They weren't into black magic—it was Victorian accounts that turned them into devil-worshippers—but they were interested in exotic philosophies. I'm sure that was what drew Sir Francis to the Ottoman Empire, this chance to investigate Eastern mysteries."

Just when "She Wasn't Unresponsive" was my final pick for favorite 2009 catchprase, along comes "Yes, There Were Women Involved." Can't we all come out of the closet? If you pine for a world where women weren't allowed to vote or own property—and I'm pretty certain that most men still do—just come out and own it.

Courtesy of stalwart commenter John, who is unashamed to come out and own that this article is that rare  "something in Slate not named Dear Prudence that is worth reading."

Related: Tales of Ribaldry will titillate you with bawdy sauciness.


NEXT: Editorial Discretion or Censorship at The Street.com? And is it Harder or Easier to Kill Stories Now Than in The Days of Yore?

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  1. You’re obviously just trying to outdo Jesse Walker.

  2. “Yes, There Were Women Involved.”

    Why would he even think that had to be said?

  3. If you pine for a world where women weren’t allowed to vote or own property — and I’m pretty certain that most men still do — just come out and own it.

    I don’t care if women own property just so long as they don’t get to own mine.

    1. “Misandrist” is the proper word that people confuse with “misanthrope” to describe a hater of males (as opposed to humanity in general). I wonder if that describes Tim Cavanaugh. Is he joking or serious when he describes most men as closet male chauvinists? Does he really think the statement “Yes, there were women involved” demeans women? In context, I understand it as a euphemism for “Yes, there was sex involved.” It’s easy to imagine a different situation in which “Yes, there were men involved” would mean the same thing (e.g. an illicit rendezvous inside a sorority or convent). Goose and gander.

      If he really thinks so little of most men’s attitude toward women, then it’s not a wonder that he refuses to support a Roe v. Wade for men that would challenge paternity suits in the name of reproductive choice. Tsk tsk.

      Also, I’m a little unnerved to see anyone at Reason so eager to defend the Victorian era. Maybe the prudery of that time has been exaggerated, but the current examples of Iran and Saudi Arabia should warn us against associating anti-porn regimes with liberation of women. If it’s unfair to accuse him of making such an association, I hope he can clarify his point about Victoria’s reign.

  4. It’s always been funny to me when modern people think they invented sex.

    My undergratuate thesis was a 100+ page paper on jokes of the Italian renaisannce. The main source material was a book by one of the Papal secretaries. It was so dirty, that the 1876 English translation left the dirty parts in Latin.

    1. Enough of your Papal smears! Our Catholic posters will be offended.

    2. Abdul, “It’s always been funny to me when modern people think they invented sex.” Ahh, ask any man about the first time they ejaculated. Nine times out of ten they will say they tought they invented it. Either you are the one out of ten or female.

    3. One of my Classics profs told us that was a major reason upper-class types studied Greek & Latin – the really dirty stuff from the ancients was never translated, so unless you could read it in the original you were out of luck.

  5. Courtesy of stalwart commenter John

    Good for you John, you finally got that elusive hat tip, cite, acknowledgement!

    Now go eat your arrowroot cookie! 🙂

  6. Here’s but a sample of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, written in 1534:

    “In the prime of [Gargantua’s] years he married Gargamelle, daughter of the king of the Butterflies, a fine, good-looking piece, and the pair of them often played the two-backed beast, joyfully rubbing their bacon together, to such effect that she became pregnant of a fine boy and carried him into the eleventh month.”

    Later on, Pantagruel’s friend Panurge suggests that the walls of Paris be made of the vaginas of its womenfolk because, as he puts it, they’re cheaper than stone.

    Here’s Shakespeare:
    “Hamlet: My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?
    Rosencrantz: As the indifferent children of the earth.
    Guildenstern: Happy in that we are not overhappy; On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
    H: Nor the soles of her shoe?
    R: Neither my lord.
    H: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?
    G: Faith, her privates we.
    H: In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a strumpet.”

  7. You can find raunchy writing prior to Rabelais and Shakespeare. The Decameron reads as if it could’ve be written yesterday. You can even go much further back, with Petronius and Aristophanes just a couple of examples.

    1. Yeah, the Satyricon is pretty amazing in that respect.

  8. Whatever you want to say about the period of Victoria’s reign, the population curve indicates that people were fucking in England during those soot-choked days of bitterness.

    I didn’t pay any attention to who wrote this post, but when I saw this sentence, I knew it was fucking Tim C.

    Dude knows how to liven up a post.

  9. Just when “She Was Not Unresponsive” was my final pick for favorite 2009 catchprase, along comes “Yes, There Were Women Involved.”

    were these supposed to have links?

    1. The second refers to the paragraph before. The first does apparently still need a link, though I think it will become the t-shirt slogan of 2010.

      1. Just when “She Wasn’t Unresponsive” was my final pick for favorite 2009 catchprase, along comes “Yes, There Were Women Involved.”

        I completely concur with this point.

  10. If the Georgian era Brits were so damned salacious, hows come there’s no record of any of them uploading anything like 2 Girls 1 Cup?

    1. Franklin moved to the colonies and they didn’t have the electricity in England.

    2. John Wilkes got in trouble for something other than his broadsides.

    3. Dysentery was still a serious illness.

      1. Still is in many parts of the world.

        1. So you’re saying 2 Girls 1 Cup couldn’t be reproduced in say, Bangladesh, even today.

          1. I wouldn’t suggest it.

            1. I wouldn’t have suggested 2 girls 1 cup in the first place.

              1. So you’re admitting you saw the piece?

                1. No, actually, I never have. But, I gleaned enough about it from reading other posters’ reviews.

                  Besides, any site recommended by SugarFree I don’t visit; I may be a surgeon, by even my constitution has limits.

                  1. SugarFree filters a lot of crap to bring you the best.

                    Fair enough. It’s your loss.

                    1. LOL, except when he himselfs his links.

                      I have to admit I have waded through Feministing and some of his other choice stuff. His blog site is par excellance in slash/fic depravity 🙂

                      The description of 2 Girls 1 Cup alone just isn’t my cuppa java.

                    2. *sigh*

                      me too. I can only think of the Big Gulp.

  11. Where is SugarFree? He will not be happy if he misses this thread.

    1. It’s almost 11PM in Kentucky right now, dude. He’s probably ripped on Nyquil and Cisco cocktails and casually fingering his sloppily wet wife while watching Eastwick.

      (oh man I hope he reads this now)

      1. Single barrel Nyquil? Good God, we’re talking…Kentucky. Right?

        1. SugarFree is, I’m sure, concerned that you guessed so accurately about the intimate details of his life.

      2. I’d be offended for the sake of my wife if I wasn’t so certain it is me you are so interested in while conjuring that scenerio.

        The Nyquil is just a wish your heart makes… so that I won’t struggle too much.

  12. Wow, OK dude that sounds pretty wild alright!


    1. Ha ha ha ha, you got that right, Jimmy!

  13. Now we know what Washington and Jefferson meant when they referred to “those fucking brits.”

  14. If you pine for a world where women weren’t allowed to vote or own property — and I’m pretty certain that most men still do — just come out and own it.

    Agreed- then women could save themselves the trouble of dating you. ;-P

    Also, I’m sure there were single mothers with daddy issues who were also comely and young
    at some point. Episiarch’s dating pool is as wide as those French vaginas.

    1. “The Gilgamek vagina is three feet wide and filled with razor sharp teeth. Do you really expect us to have sex with them?!?”

  15. Women should be obscene and not heard.

    1. Hmmm. This is extremely winsome.

  16. “Crank up the Phonautograph”!?!?!
    Sorry, that’s impossible. They neither crank nor emit sound, unless you can count current research with lasers. The Phonautograph refers to a graphic depiction of sound waves, not a sound recording capable of playback.

  17. Those must have been some very smelly and hairy orgies.

    1. Like a human Steve Smith kinda thingy.

      1. Those orgies were voluntary; sex with Steve Smith is always forcible.

      2. OK, whoever crafts a Steve Smith costume for the next FurryCon must post pictures.

          1. Based on reports of this sasquatch’s dimensions, I have made a scale replica chia statue of said biped hominid. It should be a real hit at said convention.

            Ironically there is no chia goo and seed to spread on the chia head, as the last known photographic evidence has shown the brute either shaves his cranium or has localized cranial alopecia.

  18. The Victorian period was also characterized by […] a substantial increase in social mobility in British society.

    I can’t think of a way to say this that includes the phrase “shit-spackled Edwardian choad,” but they’ve fixed that. British classes are as rigidly separated now as…uh, like…two things…separated by a rigidity.

      1. The Victorian period was also characterized by…

        Was menstrual flow any different then? Is that what made everyone so uptight?

        1. Was menstrual flow any different then?

          Do you remember the elevator scene in The Shining?

          1. Nice visual there, Saccharin Man.

            I may have problems drinking cranberry juice or putting raspberry drizzle on my cheesecake.

            1. Not to mention the difficulty with creepy British twins.

              “Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny. Forever… and ever… and ever.”

              In case someone doesn’t remember the elevator or is a menophiliac by proxy.


              1. Heh, I remember the quick flash scene with the British twins when I saw The Shining as a child.

                Scared the crap outta me.

                That movie had all sorts of visual references to and suggestions of all sorts of phelias and fetishes.

                “Your money is no good here, Mr. Torrance….”

                1. “I…corrrrrrected them, sir.”

          2. You don’t miss a beet. Good one, mr. That was awesome!

  19. “””debauchery proliferated up and down the rain-soaked land, fueled by riotous boozing and self-indulgence. “”

    Where do I sign up?

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