Bike seats, speed, and sexual depravity

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

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I’m a philosopher, a feminist, and a cyclist. And I’m fascinated by the history of women’s cycling and its connection to the early feminist movement.

One of the most striking things in the history of women’s cycling is the terror of female masturbation associated with the shape and position of the bicycle seat. It’s worse than the dreaded bicycle face and worse than the fear that bicycling would make women prone to infidelity and prostitution.

Here’s a passage from  Women on Wheels: The Bicycle and the Women’s Movement of the 1890s  that presents the general problem quite clearly.

“That bike riding might be sexually stimulating for women was also a real concern to many in the 1890s. It was thought that straddling a saddle combined with the motion required to propel a bicycle would lead to arousal. So-called “hygienic” saddles began to appear, saddles with little or no…

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