Times change. And when we look at past generations’ relationship advice, much of it is pretty inaccurate, sexist or just plain gross. Fortunately, though, we all can laugh at many of these ideas today. We rounded up some of our favorite “pearls” of wisdom:
1. Adjusting your socks or bra strap in front of a man is un-ladylike.
As if shaving your legs and getting a blowout wasn’t enough, this 1938 magazine tutorial gives women a host of other date-night musts: “Do your dressing in your boudoir to keep your allure. Be ready to go when your date arrives; don’t keep him waiting. Greet him with a smile!”
2. Don’t discuss sex in bed—it makes you repulsive.
Let’s not talk about sex, baby…Thomas D. Horton, author of 1945’s charmingly-titled, What Men Don’t Like About Women, suggests that men do not respond well to “relatively decent” women who speak about sex. Lucky for modern partners, most of us are encouraged to be open and honest about our sexual experiences because—shocker!—communication is actually really important to people.
3. Be a pro in the bedroom or risk him cheating.
Herman H. Rubin’s Sex Harmony and Eugenics, published in 1934, claimed that a woman’s “false modesty” could ruin a marriage. Never mind real stressors like children, job insecurity or depression—if you’re divorcing, it’s probably because you’re clueless about sex.
To stay married, be good in bed: “A woman may forgive almost any fault in a man, provided only that he is a perfect lover…In order to be a good husband, learn to become a good lover. The wife on her part should disabuse her mind from any puritanical or prudish ideas, and understand that by cooperating fully with her husband to secure their mutual maximum of joy, she increases immeasurably her own happiness, and insures her status as a loving and well-loved wife.”
4. The key to a hot honeymoon is separate bedrooms.
Rubin kept the genius advice coming: “If the honeymooning couple can afford the expense, it would be infinitely better for the man to engage adjoining connecting rooms. At least, for the first night or two.” Why? Because getting ready for bed is a “rather embarrassing procedure.” Nobody wants to see that. Separate rooms, however, are “so much more romantic and satisfactory.” Well, there you have it.
5. Beware of having sex on your period.
According to The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation, men in the 19th century were all sorts of fearful about a woman’s period, claiming sex during menstruation was “corrupt and virulent,” causing Gonorrhea and other diseases a man couldn’t possibly contract on his own. By the 1930s, it was also thought that women shouldn’t have sex during their periods, since it would cause them to become exceptionally ill and bleed even more.
6. Douching will make you more desirable.
Research suggests that douching products might actually bad for you, but in the 1960s, women were douching with Lysol and other products, like Demure, because “every husband wants his wife to be feminine…in every sense of the word.” Apparently, having a vagina isn’t feminine enough.
7. Use a pad to preserve your virginity.
The tampon sure has come a long way. Today, they’re being de-stigmatized and distributed for free, whereas in decades past women feared that a tampon could devirginize them. We can thank a society preoccupied with chastity and strict gender roles for that. And while a tampon can stretch or tear a woman’s hymen, we now know that virginity can only be “lost” during intercourse.
8. Sitting in “awkward” positions is not sexy.
The key to a good date—according to this 1930s magazine tutorial—is sitting like a lady. And never looking bored. If you are bored and must chew gum (which is not recommended, according to the tutorial), well, at least do it silently. Fortunately, today that’s not a big deal. Good thing, too—because sitting cross-legged for long periods of time is bad for your blood pressure.
9. Don’t masturbate or you’ll stunt your breasts.
Leave it to the Victorians to link masturbation and breast size. According to The Science of a New Life, a book published by John Cowan in 1869, “Girls who have followed masturbating habits…show usually strong indications of it in the failure of their glandular development. Such persons are apt to be flat-breasted, or, as we term it, flat-chested.”
We don’t know how he could have possibly found research to back that one up, but we do know that it’s completely inaccurate.
10. Make sure your panties are totally spotless and pink. With ruffles.
Dr. William Josephus Robinson also shared some fantastically creepy underwear advice: He suggests, “That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford. And the color should be preferably pink. And lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear, and are liked by the average man.”
11. Don’t get a run in your stocking—because you will be a disappointment to your husband.
Because being uncomfortable is of great importance, women in the 1950s were expected to deal with panties, stockings, garters and girdles. On top of all of that, advertisers let it be known that a rip in your stocking was a serious faux pas in the eyes of a man.
12. Don’t be the first thing he looks at in the morning.
According to Horton‘s What Men Don’t Like About Women, “Do not show your face until 30 minutes after your man wakes up. Immediately after waking, what a man wants most is not to see or hear his beloved for at least fifteen minutes—preferably a half hour. If more women knew this simple fact, their love life would be happier.”
We can all get behind the “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” requirement, but this one seems pretty unavoidable, considering married people generally live in the same house as one another.
13. Your hair should always smell really, really good.
As a general rule, people shouldn’t smell. But with all the time women were expected to spend cooking in the kitchen, it’s a little ridiculous to demand their hair smell like baby’s breath around the clock. (It’s also just a bit creepy to know that a man might be sniffing your hair and assessing your attractiveness based on it.)
14. Let your date guide the conversation.
This 1938 magazine tutorial presumes that women only want to talk about one thing—clothing. But seriously? No one cares about anything you have to say—unless it’s about your date. In which case, please talk. That’s very important.
15. Never tell your husband that you’re not in the mood.
Because sex is all about keeping your man happy and protecting his feelings, Dr. William Josephus Robinson, author of 1929’s Married Life and Happiness: Or, Love and Comfort in Marriage, warns, “To the man it makes no difference in the pleasurableness of the act whether you are frigid or not unless he knows that you are frigid. And he won’t know unless you tell him, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Heed this advice. It has saved thousands of women from trouble.” With that mentality, we wonder if the good doctor ever had any luck with the ladies.