Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

These taboos were strengthened by the general desire to ignore the animal aspects of existence, so that “perspire” and finally “glow” replaced the cruder “sweat“, and some considered even the word “body” undelicate. (50) This, strictly, is prudery — for the word prude means one who pretends to an ignorance he or she does not possess. Steele defines it as “a female hypocrite“. Lydia Languish was acting like a prude when she concealed her reading matter.

“Quick, Lucy dear. Hide the books. Throw “Tanzai” under my toilet. Put “Adultere Innocent” behind “Human Duties“. Push Ovid under the pillow and “Bijoux Indiscrets” into your pocket.”

This remarkable trend, without parallel in history, was inter-linked with another: the development of an extreme sensitivity on the subject of the excretory functions, and the extension of the verbal taboos to cover this subject also. I have already noted the existence of these anal preoccupations among the early Puritans, and have hinted at their connection with money-getting, homosexuality and sadism. But the early Puritans had no hesitation in referring to such matters, as neither had the medievals. At the end of the seventeenth century, Defoe, writing a moralizing tract attacking the theatre, felt nothing inappropriate in writing

A lay-stall this, Apollo spoke the word
And straight arose a playhouse from a t***

In the eighteenth century, a lady could stop her coach and relieve nature without worrying about her coachman or groom, (3) and Smollett gets one of his funniest scenes from the administration by a country squire to an elderly guest of a powerful laxative. As late as 1790, The Times could print the word “piss” — a thing which would have been unthinkable in 1825.(47)