Sex in the Streets, VD, and Illegitimate Children: Philly was 'Sin City' of post-Revolutionary America

In the years immediately following the Revolutionary War, there was a lull in government regulation in the New Republic, allowing for rampant promiscuity and seediness to seep into America and, in particular, Philadelphia. Author Thom Nickels has written a piece for the Huffington Post detailing the nature of Philadelphia's sexual culture in the wake of the victory over England.

Nickels writes of Philly's "sexual golden age" and pulls quotes from Richard Godbeer's Sexual Revolution in Early America. Additionally, he mentions a lecture given by Bryn Mawr College graduate and expert on 18th century domestic practices, Clarissa Dillon, Ph.D.

Things you might find interesting from Nickels' piece:

  • Casual sex in Philly's alleys and taverns was commonplace
  • Philly was known as the post-Revolutionary "Sin City"
  • "Out-of-wedlock pregnancies and little illegitimate children were everywhere."
  • 1/38 adults was the parent of an illegitimate child
  • There was a bookstore that offered treatments for venereal disease, "but most Philadelphians didn't care"

The whole post is worth a read, as it includes a description of an 18th century condom (complete with colored ribbons), details of the clamp down on the era of sexual enlightment, and an explanation of how shame and scorn in the "clamp down" wiped out the "pleasure culture." [HuffPo]

P.S. The pinup image of Benjamin Franklin is one of a series featured on the publius-esquire Tumblr, a blog dedicated to the cattiness of the New Republic. It's also worth checking out, if only for the wonderful version of Benjamin Franklin's Cosmo cover.