chapter  1
18 Pages

The pleasures of procreation: traditional and biomedical theories of conception

WithAngus McLaren

A recent chronicler of eighteenth-century childbearing has argued that the dangers and diseases which inevitably accompanied parturition were so great that women in past times must have loathed and feared sex. This chapter investigates the patterning of human fertility, and seeks to understand how English people in the past viewed the process of procreation and how such views began to change in the course of the eighteenth century. It gives an account of procreation as described in the traditional texts, and examines whether or not the scientific approach, concerning organization and development of the embryo, was free of sexual bias. The chapter examines the role played in evolution of change of the sexually active woman of the seventeenth century to the passionless creature of the nineteenth by medical scientists who were influenced by, but also obviously influenced, the other participants in the debate over sexuality.