Bound to Please

Bound to Please

By Leigh Summers

I got this book for a couple reasons: 1. For my Victorian literature class I was going to be giving a report about Victorian fashion, namely, on underwear and 2. While I was doing preliminary research to find good sources, I came across a review of this book which declared that it was simultaneously fascinating and absolutely disgusting.

I had to read it.

Bound to Please did not disappoint! This book is incredibly interesting- so much so that I simply could not stick to the time limit for my presentation and had to be cut off. I even shared some of my new-found knowledge with my freshman composition class (they were freaked out but absolutely loved it).

I had no idea how ingrained corsets were in culture-not only that, but they were a reflection of a woman’s morality (loose corset= morally loose lady). The body shape corsets created were also a reflection of class- there were upper class curves and working woman curves (an upper class woman should not appear capable of doing any work).

Speaking of those curves: DAMN corsets were incredibly damaging! They forced the body into such an unnatural and confined shape that all of the organs and bones were squeezed into unnatural positions. The most common injury related to corsets was called “chicken breast”- where the ribs were pushed together to the point where they overlapped, fractured, and then destroyed the lungs (which caused women to cough up blood and have sexy red lips—seriously, the red lips from this blood was considered attractive).

As pregnancy was a declaration that a woman had gotten laid, it was considered incredibly inappropriate to show a pregnant belly in public. So unless a woman wanted to be a shut-in, she wore a corset during pregnancy. This caused birth defects and, often, miscarriages. Some women even laced their corsets extra tight to cause a miscarriage!

It seems obvious that the uterus was not safe from the corset- in fact, another injury that happened was displacement- where the uterus was squeezed or collapsed through the cervix and entered the vagina. Sometimes, you knew it was coming, it even fell out. YES. THE UTERUS FELL OUT!!! Don’t worry though, you just shove it back in and continue with your day. They even invented a corset with a special little cup that held the uterus inside so you wouldn’t have to worry about it falling out on the street or something. But, as they knew nothing of gynecological science, this device DESTROYED the vagina, cervix, and rectum.

I am sure you can guess, but women died a lot- so dead women became a sexy thing. Women even painted blue veins on their faces and necks and tried to get alabaster skin to achieve the desired “soon-to-leave-this-world” aesthetic. Those who could afford it even ate a teeny bit of arsenic every day to get a deathly quality to their skin.

I know this is gross but this is what women actually CHOSE to do to themselves in the name of beauty not that long ago! Truthfully though, are we that much improved? Do people realize that they are exposing their bodies to incredible danger by tanning or by some extreme diets or by elective plastic surgery? Yes, but that is how they are supposed to look so they will do it.

It is a fascinating read that will have you dying to share your new-found knowledge with anyone who will listen!

Check it out.

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