I needed two of my characters to not have sex. Fear of pregnancy is certainly a very good reason. I thought about having my heroine count the days, but just for giggles, and by giggles I mean “because I am a hopeless research nerd,” I looked it up to make sure the Victorians knew about that tidbit.
Women didn’t know about counting the days from one’s last period to determine the fertile window until the 1920s.
This was made worse by the fact that condoms were not widely available, and in some places only sold to married men.
You don’t think about just how liberating birth control was, just how great a degree of freedom is conferred by managing one’s own fertility, until you get smacked in the face with it. I have never known a time when I couldn’t just bop into 7/11 for condoms, or wander into a clinic and emerge with birth control pills, or at bare freaking minimum count days and say, eh, the curse starts tomorrowish so we’re probably clear. Also, while the consequences to getting pregnant unintentionally and outside of marriage would have had a massive impact on my life, I would not have had to cope with any societal disapproval, nor would my single mother status have any impact on my ability to be employed or rent an apartment.
What an impact this would have on a sexual relationship!
This is why good historical fiction isn’t “girls like us but in costume.” Some aspects of being a woman are universal across time and space, but other things are so anchored in context as to be meaningless without it. I hope I’m up to the challenge…
I can’t use the c-word in daily conversation.
Side note: As a young theater major, I had to take acting classes even though my intent was to be a director. In Acting I, there was an exercise we did before reading through plays with “dirty” language. Bear in mind the average age in the class was 18 and therefore a healthy percentage was still inclined to giggle over saying “penis.” Also, thanks to the rampant prudery of a minority terrorizing everyone threatening this and banning that, most high schools put on shows that might have been risque fifty years ago. I mean, my own high school did Blithe Spirit, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Hello Freaking Dolly. Edgy stuff. So anyway, to get us on track to handle any kind of language, we would chant certain words until they were just… words. The first uttering of “penis” traumatized the fluttery little southern belle I sat with. The twentieth, she was empowered, with “PENIS!” roaring forth. The fiftieth, she was as bored as I was.
I couldn’t say the c-word without horror even if I said it a million times.
That was awhile ago, but I’ve still got the hangup. In my stories, I say pussy, mainly. As I think I’ve said before on this blog, I’ll use the c-word for a particular effect, either to say something about the male or to show the female’s state of mind. But I avoid using it as a general word.
So, working on the steampunks, I’ve been pulling out my Victorian erotica, doing web research, and so on, to make sure I’m not using anachronistic language.
The c-word is period correct, as well as the variation “cunny.” As a matter of fact, the c-w0rd has an extensive pedigree, whereas “pussy” is really a vulva-come-lately of terms.
I learn something every day around here.
I’ve always loved the Victorians, especially their children’s literature and their erotica. I’m working on a steampunk right now, so my eyeballs gravitate to any article that might help. If you’re not a big fan of the era, and you haven’t read enough of their erotica to know how wild they were under those all-encompassing costumes, check out this link for a brief look at why you’ve been given the wrong idea: http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor/what-victorian-women-thought-about-sex
Lots of stuff is deductible for the freelance writer and aspiring author. (Hint #1: Your home office is technically deductible – but if/when you sell the house to move, you have to pay some of the money back. Feh. I move too often to want to deal with that.) I have an accountant, because part of handling the business end of a writing career is knowing when you’re in over your head.
My accountant is quite accustomed to my spreadsheets. (Hint #2: The accountant doesn’t actually need or want your receipts. You keep those in a box in the event of an audit – which is somewhat more likely for the self-employed. Just give the accountant a reckoning – I track everything on a spreadsheet during the year, and print it out for him in January.) He approves of my anal retentive nature when it comes to categories and itemizing. He is long since accustomed to seeing an entry for the annual copy of Writer’s Market, for example.
But I really don’t know what he’s going to make of my entries for various Spice, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and Blaze titles under the “research” subheading this year.