Let’s Talk about Sex
I wrote last about the great concern I had for my sisters of the nineteenth century, knowing that the most sexual and anatomical knowledge they had was of Frederick Hollick’s The Matron’s Manual of Midwifery, and the Diseases of Women During Pregnancy and in Child Bed: Being a Familiar and Practical Treatise, more Especially Intended for the Instruction of Females Themselves, but Adapted also for Popular use Among Students and Practitioners of Medicine. I stand by my concern and my vague astonishment at the lack of knowledge females had of their bodies, but would amend any sort of doubt that Dr. Hollick’s work was worthwhile and incredibly important.
Further research about this doctor whom I had previously had no knowledge of has led to various findings.
The first? He was actually a very well-known and highly educated man. This wasn’t anything I had necessarily doubted before, but it wasn’t anything I was sure of either. His manual that I inspected, full of self-advertised remedies to problematic sexual situations and health problems, made me suspect that he may be some sort of scam, or a corrupt man of medicine only trying to make a quick buck. He was actually key in the advancement of sexual knowledge and the understanding of the human body in the nineteenth century.
Secondly, Hollick wrote more than just this one manual. He wrote a similar one for men, explaining their sexual organs and diseases
prominent thereof, as well as a manual devoted to the origin of life through reproduction, a descriptive book on the diseases of a woman and the ways to treat such things, and various pamphlets and additions to healthy marriages and sex lives. These can almost all be viewed on archive.org. According to Worldcat.org, Hollick has a total of 64 works in 216 publications. They are all fairly outdated as of now, but at the time were all that was available to the public.
This brings me to finding #3. Hollick was fairly radical for a doctor of the nineteenth century. His main mission, to bring sexual health and education to the public, was realized through his works, but was met with opposition from his peers. It was unseemly and improper at that time to bring sexual life into the light and into conversation. (I think it’s important to note here that even though we are more open about sex in our present day, it is still a rather taboo subject. We haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think.) In many cases, the teachings of Dr. Hollick were all that were available to the public which, though still concerning, is rather admirable. The man was one of the first to present ideas of aphrodisiacs, multiple orgasms, and the inner workings of both reproductive systems.
Hollick even gave lectures and demonstrations to the public! For those unable to read or who failed to find a copy of his manuals, he would teach audiences about the female sexual organs and their functions. Of course, everyone was initially shocked by this, but it was actually quite helpful, I’d like to believe.
It’s sad almost that he was met with so much opposition. Hollick was charged with obscenity by his colleagues, who took issue with the diagrams he presented to the public, labeling them as pornographic in some cases. He didn’t bother even showing up to his second trial,
which is, quite honestly, awesome. It’s the biggest middle finger I think the man could have delivered in such a time, when he was giving the world a better understanding of such important things.
Thankfully, Hollick’s work gained popularity. He had great support from the public, which helped him to continue his teachings. Though it is concerning how little Hollick actually knew and, as a result, how little the public knew of their sexuality, it’s important to know that without Hollick and his research and teachings, we wouldn’t know what we do today. I applaud Frederick Hollick and his paving the road of sexual understanding. The road isn’t finished and we’ve a long way to go, but I’m proud to be living in a world where we aren’t afraid to continue his work.
Well done, Freddie, ol’ boy. I hope we can make you proud.