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“No Snuggling!” Sex Talks to Young Girls

In the 1920s, in part because of prohibition and the emergence of speakeasies, homosexuality became more open. At the same time, psychologists, physicians, and social reformers had been at work for several decades attempting to study, classify, categorize, and label human sexual behavior. Practices that had long been common, or at least tolerated, were now being viewed as problematic. In an excerpt from Ten Sex Talks to Girls, published in 1914, Dr. Irving Steinhardt of New York warned that any affection or intimacy—indeed, any sort of physical contact between women at all—carried the potential for disease, pauperism, and death. Steinhardt’s book attempted to classify as dangerous forms of intimacy between women that previously had seemed completely "natural."

Avoid girls who are too affectionate and demonstrative in their manner of talking and acting with you; who are inclined to admire your figure and breast development; who are inclined to be just a little too familiar in their actions toward you; who are inclined to be rather free and careless in the display of themselves in your presence; who press upon you too earnestly invitations to remain at their homes all night, and to occupy the same bed they do. When sleeping in the same bed with another girl, old or young, avoid “snuggling up” close together. Avoid the touching of sexual parts, including the breasts, and, in fact, I might say avoid contact of any parts of the body at all. Keep your night robe about you so that you are as well protected from outside contact as its size will permit, and let your conversation be of other topics than sexuality. Do not lie in each other’s arms when awake or falling asleep; and, after going to bed, if you are sleeping alone or with others, just bear in mind that beds are sleeping places. When you go to bed, go to sleep just as quickly as you can. If possible, avoid sleeping with anyone else. It is more healthful and sanitary to sleep in a separate bed . . . certain diseases, both those affecting the genital organs and others, are often conveyed through contaminated bed clothes, body contact, the breath, etc. You can see for yourselves, therefore, that separate beds are good for more reasons than one. . . .

Some girls are low enough to accept pay for bringing about the moral ruin of members of their sex; . . . they are to be found everywhere, in the smallest village as well as in the largest town. Girls who have become discontented with their lot are easily influenced by the sweet, honeyed lies of these vile creatures. Beware of strange women, as well as of strange men, who seek to shower favors and other things upon you for no apparent reason except that they are strangely attracted to you. If you do not, you will live to regret it. Thousands of your sex already have, and lie in nameless graves away from home, most likely in a pauper’s burying-ground, because they had become so degraded in name and fact as to be lost to "the old folks at home."

Source: Irving D. Steinhardt, Ten Sex Talks to Girls, 14 Years and Older (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1914).

See Also:"The Great Prevalence of Sexual Inversion": Havelock Ellis on Gay Life in the American City
Inventing Homosexuality: Chicago Vice Crusaders Confront Sexual "Perversion" in the Theater