I recently stayed in a brothel in Paris on Rue Chabanais for my wedding anniversary.
Not a building currently working as a brothel mind you, but now an apartment on a street famed for its luxurious brothels operating near The Louvre between 1878 and 1946 and frequented by the likes of Edward VII, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Marlene Dietrich no less. Edward VII used to visit when he was still “Bertie” Prince Of Wales, son of Queen Victoria (not to be confused with Colin Firth’s portrayal of the stammering “Bertie” in The King’s Speech who became King George VI, the current Queen’s dad). The naughty King even had a room with his coat of arms over the bed housing a large copper bath tub which he would fill with champagne and bathe with his prostitutes in. Being heavily overweight he also had himself a special ‘love seat’ built to recline on while receiving oral sex and for acts involving multiple participants. What would that nice old lady on our stamps have to say about her fat horny old Great Grandfather?!
Anyway the history of where I was staying got me thinking about these frisky Frenchies and where some of what we know as the ‘language of love’ originates. The French Kiss got its name because the French were known to be much more passionate and sexually adventurous at the start of the 20th century than us Brits. It’s thought that “French Kissing” was discovered by British and American soldiers during their off duty escapades in World War 1, and before the 1920s it wasn’t a term used in English speaking countries at all. It’s strange to think that in Victorian Britain, in most households the tongue was so underused! A lack of oral stimulation of every kind for the average women then – restricted freedom of speech, no right to vote, and totally uninitiated to the art of a good tonguing.
If the French Kiss was seen as slightly risqué, then I doubt very much whether in the early 20th century ‘tipping the velvet’ was commonplace between husbands and wives either (the Victorian term for cunnilingus which Sarah Waters famously named her book after). I imagine this type of exotic activity would have been seen and experienced in the brothels and then brought home (along with syphilis) by the male patrons to the women back home. Fellatio would also certainly not have been common practice in most homes either (hence Bertie’s love seat specifically designed to enjoy some). I don’t know what the trigger point was, but somewhere along the lines those uptight Victorians must have decided to get their kit off and 69! And thank goodness they did! Perhaps we have those Parisian brothels to thank for bringing a few new naughty things to the masses by teaching their patrons a few tricks. What cunning linguists those playful Parisians must have been! Encore, ENCORE!