The medical side of sex and sexually-transmitted disease in the GQ books is similar to the historical record, but with some important-ish differences.
It’s only mentioned a couple of times in the books, but all the slaves, male and female, are sterilized before they’re sold. My thought is that they are about 15 when they undergo this compulsory procedure. It is done to prevent troublesome situations (young master impregnates chambermaid) from arising, but also to keep the production of slaves firmly in the hands of the Houses. Ganymede does not want its customers breeding their own slaves.
Although it was certainly understood that vasectomy would prevent pregnancy, men circa 1900 weren’t going through the procedure for that reason. Rather, they were undergoing vasectomy to treat prostatitis, compulsive masturbation and bladder stones, probably with disappointing results. Although it wasn’t a popular real-life birth control method at that time, I thought it very likely that the GQ slaving Houses would take advantage of all the medical technologies available.
As far as the female slaves are concerned, in real life the first tubal ligation was done in 1880, with many improvements to the procedure to follow. Hysterectomies were performed before that time. That is not to say these surgeries were at all routine. Considering the state of medicine and surgery circa 1900, it seems likely that in performing these procedures Houses would be at risk of losing some of their expensive stock, and so I imagine they’d be keenly interested in advancing medical knowledge and making the surgeries as safe and survivable as possible. I do imagine the GQ world is slightly medically advanced beyond the historical world in this regard.
Most slaves feel ambivalent about sterilization, at best. Martin has always liked children and wants very badly to help raise them. I think he would have liked to be a father (he is not as squeamish about the idea of a woman’s body as Henry is :D ), and was sad to lose that possibility. He’s looking forward to Henry having a family.
Tom is one of my favorites. He started out just as someone for Henry to have conflicted sexy feelings about, but he started to feel more important than that very early on. It was cruel to give him gonorrhea, but it also gave him legitimate importance in the story commensurate with my feelings about him. Besides, it seemed really, REALLY unrealistic for there to be all this sex without any STDs. I didn’t want to write a treatise about the myriad dangers of unprotected sex, though, so I chose to only infect lovely, promiscuous Tom and his hapless victims, Jerry and Arthur.
Treatment of gonorrhea circa 1900 was often a prolonged and arduous process, painful and leaving scars. Antibiotics had not yet been discovered. A caustic solution of protargol/colloidal silver, was introduced into the affected area, sometimes multiple times a day, until the patient tested clear of gonococci. Some people were cured in days, some in years, and some, of course, never. In pre-antibiotic times, everything was harder to treat. Getting an STD today is serious, of course, but in most cases the consequences are nowhere near as dire as they were in 1900.
I hope to pay Tom back for his ordeal at some point by telling his whole story :)
Because they are only having sex with one another, Henry and Martin do not feel the need to use rubbers. Such a thing would never have occurred to Henry anyway. Some of Henry’s friends are more careful with their slaves’ (and their own) health than others. Freddie Caldwell does actually expect condoms to be used with Tom whenever practical, but he didn’t dictate that Tom use them in his personal life, and Tom was foolish and thought he was invincible. Obviously, he was wrong.
Many condoms in 1900 were made out of rubber and were quite thick. And durable. You could wash them out and reuse them. There were also fish bladder condoms and animal intestine condoms.
Because of the Comstock laws, it is not clear to me whether any of the young masters could have gone into a pharmacy and purchased a condom at all in the real New York of 1900. Anthony Comstock was a very powerful busybody who considered contraception to be “obscene, lewd or lascivious.” Uh, whatever, Mr. Comstock. People could and did buy condoms through the mail, and I suppose it’s possible they bought them under the counter from sympathetic druggists, but for GQ purposes we have to assume no such laws existed at all. Obviously, Mr. Comstock would not have approved of companion slaves, either. (Disturbingly, the Comstock Act is still around, though much amended and not enforced.)
5 thoughts on “sexual hygiene in the GQ books”
What an interesting post. I appreciate your commitment to realism in the world you present in the stories – although this is your AU, of course, and you can have people doing what you like, I suppose, as long as it is internally consistent. You can assume, I guess, that in this world as in ours the “the market” would have driven the delivery of reliable sterilisation for both male and female slave. One day you might turn your talent to describing the supply side of the slave trade. These would probably be stories without much romance, however, and so outside your scope of interest.
I share your affection for Tom. I knew that girl who was angling for him at the slave wedding was the dangerous sort.
I’m rereading the whole series now and loving Henry’s vulnerability and jealousy. He’s so very adolescent!
With thanks for what you do,
Thank you so much for your interest and support. I have had a discouraging few weeks, and it means everything to find such a nice message waiting for me!
It’s not that I don’t have any interest in telling stories about the supply side, but I question whether there is an audience for a world-building story vs. romance. The people who like the GQ books seem to really like the series, but there just aren’t very many of those people, and I can’t know how many of that small group would pay to learn more about Ganymede. It likely isn’t enough people to cover the costs of putting out a story. It’s depressing to have to consider future projects based on which will make money, but unfortunately I have to do that. I definitely plan to continue telling GQ stories (I have over 20 extensively outlined!), but I need to write something that has wider appeal that will (hopefully) make money. If I am successful enough at that, then I can justify spending time and money on putting out additional GQ stories. I love the universe, and I want to share it, but I can’t go broke doing it.
Tom’s story will get told no matter what. I don’t know when, but it will happen!
I’m glad the books are enjoyable for you on re-read :) I don’t know that I’m terrifically sympathetic toward real-life adolescents, but I love to write about the struggles and trials of people on the cusp of adulthood. It’s a very confusing and dramatic time!
Thank you for the generous response. I can appreciate that art is also going to have a commercial edge, unfortunately. As a reader, just let me say how much integrity and professionalism you show in your work. You are respectful of your creation – and that shows in the way you give each of them an authentic voice in an authentic moral setting. You are respectful of your readers too: witness your commitment to time lines and to engaging with readers in this way.
I look forward to the conclusion of the series – and tot he other writing projects you have planned.
Why gonorrhea and not syphilis? Syphilis was far and away the most dangerous STD in that era, not least because many infections were life-long, and because the symptoms of tertiary syphilis are so dire.
Well, actually, that’s precisely why I didn’t give Tom syphilis! I wanted to give him something that was quasi-treatable in that era, something he could reasonably recover from. I have plans for the character in the future, and tertiary syphilis does not fit in with those plans! I felt that gonorrhea had the level of all-around unpleasantness that best suited the story. Reading journal articles about gonorrhea treatment circa 1900 makes me very grateful to live in an era with antibiotics.