Vintage Season : Those naked Victorians (Part 1)

The Victorian era refers to the British period of history covering the reign of Queen Victoria (who reigned from 1837 to her death in 1901).

I’m beginning Vintage season with a look at the Victorians, because they aren’t quite as po-faced and austere as history portrays them. Conventional wisdom sees them as sexually repressed, conservative and lacking in any sort of fun, but that’s not the whole story. Even the Queen herself, the epitome of British stiff upper lip and an expression that suggests she’s sucking on lemons was asked, having given birth to nine children, was advised by her physician if she understood what this meant. ‘Yes’, she replied, no more fun in bed’. Despite this, she hated being pregnant and breast-feeding. So within that there’s a paradox already, and paradoxes abound regarding Victorians and the Victorian era.victoriannude

We sort of covered the topic of Victorians and nudity before, in our post Steampunk Naturism. Why? Because the topic of ‘steampunk’ is something that is popular within SL as a role-playing fantasy life, and its arrival in SL has certainly aided in terms of Victorian styled clothing and locations.

Additionally, photography was developed during the reign of Queen Victoria, so it’s the period of history where images of real people and real locations originate. And, of course, as soon as photography was invented, nude photography followed and also photographic pornography.

In the early days of photography, of course, the nude was often depicted in some sort of quasi-classical setting (see the photograph above), and it’s a theme that occurs again and again and again.

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I’m guessing this photo is from the 1940s or 1950s, but even then the placement of a column was a trope to give the photograph a veneer of ‘classicism’.

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Pubic hair is often in evidence in early photography (see photos above) but the model is sometimes posed to avoid the genital area (see photos below)

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Diaphanous material is another familiar prop from the early days of photography, both adding a ‘classicism’ and partially hiding genitalia. In this photograph the model’s pubic hair is merely implied.

All of the photographs above have, to greater or lesser degrees, some nod to the classicism that would have been found in art up to this point. The centuries old themes are merely continued via another medium.

And now…drumroll or not…I’m not quite sure, a first for SL Naturist, and that’s some explicit photos from the earliest days of photography. If this sort of photograph isn’t to your taste, I would advise that you don’t follow this link to our Vintage Page (scroll to the bottom), where you’ll find several photographs that depict what have become explicit photography standard themes, the sexuality of ‘the beautiful savage’, inter-racial sex, and photographs implying gay and lesbian relationships, oral sex and so on. The point of showing them is that I think their existence makes clear that not only were the photographers of the period keen to record these acts, create these tropes, and that they were being made because there was a clear audience for them.

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Sexual or non sexual? This photograph implies gay love, and also adds on the ‘noble savage’ trope by showing two ‘exotic’ (non-European) males. 

Of course, sex wasn’t quite as commonplace then as it is now. A lack of contraception, the concept of being ‘a good girl’ and maintaining one’s virginity until marriage, the closeness of the family unit in smaller houses and the lack of privacy, the ‘brazen’ nature of the female who would frequent bars means that the models in these photographs are, quite probably, prostitutes who got paid more than the going rate to simply pose nude, or to be photographed in certain sexual situations.

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In a SL context there is one ‘Victorian Parlour’ (La Chambre L’amour) which apparently offers a fairly extensive set of ‘scenes’ with which to play and, judging from the photo below, is decorated with exactly the sort of photographic work we’ve been discussing above. We’ve got volunteers to road-test this sim, and we’ll pick that up in Part 2 of our exploration of Victorian attitudes to sex, sexuality and nudity, explore more sims that allow for a recreation of the period, and also add in a bit about public swimming in the Victorian era. I hope to have that published when I get back to SL in the middle of next week.7modelvictoria_001c

Ella