The Ins And Outs Of Victorian Dating

In spite or perhaps because of the value placed on chastity, the Victorians took flirting to a new level of crazy.

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Classroom/Synonym

The Victorians weren’t exactly known for bringing sexual liberation to the masses — but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have carnal desires. In fact, the buttoned-up repression we often associate with the Victorian era misses the fact that Victorians were pretty creative when it came to inventing ways to get around sexual restraint, especially in the sphere of dating.

The Reason For “The Season”

In the Victorian era, many saw marriage as an economic arrangement from which the families of both the bride and groom — though often the groom — would benefit. And typically, an event known as The Season precipitated all the upper-crust matches that would lead to these arrangements.

Families who took part in the event had one goal in mind: To find their daughter a suitor. No matter where they lived, the Victorian elite would send their daughters — in their mid teens and early twenties — to London for the sake of encountering a potential match.

The most important element of The Season took place in the Coming Out, or the presentation of young women before the King and Queen by their mothers, aunts, or other female relative.

Even though the actual presentation only lasted a few moments for each girl, the planning would start months, if not years, prior.

Once a young woman had come out socially as a debutante, she could then attend parties and social gatherings. The caveat, of course, was that she could not do so alone. She was always accompanied by a female chaperone — usually her mother — and had to navigate the brave new world of dating while under supervision.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England, currently writing a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Seventeen, Romper, Bustle, and Quartz.
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