Some of America’s most popular sex symbols were cowboys and/or icons that either stepped right out of the true good ole wild West, or at least had that image. Everyone from Doc Holiday to Jesse James to James Dean in “Giant” to the Marlboro Man.
Check out any Hollywood Western — and although there may be some artistic embellishment — every saloon scene is chocked full of pretty young women all dolled up and looking for some action. “Hey cowboy, do you wanna head upstairs?”
Well historians have actually researched what sex was like when most everyone had a six-shooter strapped to their hip and here is what they found out!
Real Brokeback Mountain Stuff!
Okay, this is gonna be rough for some, but despite the gunslingin’, tobacco spittin’ hard drinkin’ image of the American cowboy it appears that engaging in acts of homosexuality was relatively common.
In an interview with author and University of Colorado at Boulder History Department Chairman, Peter Boag who wrote the book Same Sex Affairs ("Homos on the Range: How gay was the West?"), said, "people who engaged in same sex activities weren't seen as homosexual."
It was a matter of necessity. When women were scarce in isolated communities, such as mining camps and long distance cattle runs, certain men would assume the female roles both sexually and domestically.
Painted Ladies Were Everywhere
Many times even in the most wholesome of American Hollywood westerns there would be that sassy brothel Madame going toe-to-toe with a rowdy drunk and that coy “soiled dove” who caught the eye of the sheriff.
Well prostitution was rampant in the old west and it ranged from the down and dirty (unpaved) street walker who actually carried a sheet with her so the two could lay down on the ground to the high end European brothel.
Racism ran high in prostitution and your looks did not necessarily denote how much you could charge for sex as much as your nationality and ethnicity did.
Poison as Birth Control
In an era when condoms were rare and expensive the ability to prevent getting pregnant proved to be almost as dangerous as giving birth and for prostitutes, pregnancy was a double-dinger. Not only would it put you out of commission for 9 months but also there were a high percentage of frontier women dying during childbirth.
So prostitutes employed the medical “benefits” of abortifacients, a generic term for any substance that induces a miscarriage. These abortifacients were usually plant derived poisons that would induce a miscarriage thus killing the unwanted fetus.
No BJs at This Rodeo!
Now we can understand why the prostitutes may have not wanted to perform oral on a man who hasn’t taken a bath in weeks and has been in the saddle for days, but why the cowboy would have shied away from one of sex’s greatest pleasure is beyond us. However, according to Chad Heap in his book Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940, he explains that fellatio was considered a little too exotic (European/French) a sexual act for all Americans during this time period and for the prostitutes that did acquiesce they were shunned by the non-head-giving working girls.
Six Guns and Pantaloons!
Historian Peter Boag is back with another interesting and bit shocking fact. He says that during his research he had found literally hundreds of accounts where men were dressing as women!
Okay, it wasn’t public sex per say. However, most people lived in one room house, so when the lanterns were turned off and the only privacy that could be afforded was the darkness of the two-window cabin you had sex in a room where the rest of your family was only an arm’s length away!
Before getting married sometimes people would buy small booklets called marriage manuals where misinformation about STD’s was disseminated and the evils of masturbation where expounded and how the Lord would send you to hell for sex out of wedlock.
A Culture of Rape
There is nothing amusing about the sad fact that during this period women were not held in very high regard and a culture of rape and assault was endemic. Women kept silent on whom their attackers were, since they knew the law would never pursue the perpetrators, never mind actually arrest them.