#4. Puritans Were Puritanical
Every American schoolkid who has sat through a lesson on the history of Thanksgiving was told that the pilgrims who founded America were Puritans, a group of sexually repressed religious fanatics. In reality, the Puritans and the Pilgrims arrived separately but since that's the only context in which most of us have even heard of Puritans, we just mentally combined the pilgrims and the Puritans into a single group of people who loved turkey but loathed sex.
Sex with turkeys presented the ultimate conflict of interest.
But those early settlers in America were part of a much larger group in the Church of England who were working to purify the world of anything relating to genitalia.
Although sex between unmarried couples was theoretically a crime in Puritan society, that hardly slowed them down. It just meant that their society was rife with shotgun weddings. According to some studies, up to 1 in 3 Puritan women were pregnant when they were married. The odds of becoming pregnant from one act of intercourse are a lot lower than that, so that's a lot of deviant behavior for a group that cheerfully crushed people to death for looking "witchy."
Look close. Ain't no rings on those fingers.
Given that they lived in such a repressive and extremist society, these dangerous criminals must have carried out their illicit affairs with discretion, right? Not even close. The Puritans had sex everywhere. They had sex in churchyards. They had sex in ditches and in hedges. They had sex in bars and in bean patches and on porches. One of the most common places for Puritan servants to have sex was in the kitchen, often while the other servants watched.
It's not even like the clergy were uptight about a little action in the bedroom or bean patch. The Puritan church not only condoned sex for pleasure between married spouses, it actually required it. Sex was mandatory not only because it produced offspring, but because the Puritans believed that sexually pleasing one's spouse was a religious duty. At least one man was excommunicated from the Puritan church for refusing to have sex with his wife. Impotency or poor sexual performance was considered grounds for divorce, and a man was not to withdraw from his wife in case he ruined her orgasm.
"The frilly neck thing is to tickle her -- well, we don't talk about it."
So, how could the Puritans justify awesome sex for married couples but no sex for the unmarried? The Puritan church believed that because marriage was between a man, a woman and Jesus, sex should also be between a man, a woman and Jesus. This wasn't even a metaphor: The Puritan church sought converts by describing the "voluptuous delights" that awaited them in heaven with their "heavenly husband." Yeah, they're talking about sex with Jesus.