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Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Sex:
or The Sex Life of a Gentleman

By R. Alain Everts

During the course of my friendship with Sonia Lovecraft, the topic of her sexual relationship with Howard Phillips Lovecraft came up not once—due more to the young age at that time of this author, than to the lack of his scholarship. Fortunately for me, however, several times Mrs. Lovecraft brought up the subject herself and this scholar duly recorded and filed away the pertinent data.
     In several unpublished recollections of HPL, Sonia mentioned in passing that aspect of their relationship—of course, as was HPL, she was also a Victorian prude when it came to sex and sexual relations; however Sonia lived into an age of greater liberties regarding sexual matters and the revelation of them in publick. And, she also had given birth to two children prior to her 20th birthday, children by her first husband, only one of which survived. This experience, although somewhat traumatic and repressing to her at the time, was certainly much more than Howard had ever had, for he was a virgin at their marriage in 1924. His bride was hardly blushing, and although both were not enthusiastic in any sexual sense of the word, both were able to sustain satisfying sexual relations.
     Sonia told me that prior to their wedding, HPL purchased and read thoroughly all subject matter he could obtain regarding the marriage, sex and the duties of a husband in the connubial bed. He was perforce a conscientious lover. Possibly HPL obtained material and information from several of his friends—even possibly he might have obtained material from James Morton, who was quite well-known for his outspoken and liberal attitudes towards sex and who put such attitudes to good practise. His knowledge on sexual matters, especially sophisticated matters, was very broad—this researcher recalls reading some of Morton’s exquisite erotic poetry which was rather explicit, and also some handouts dittoed off around the early 1900s for a free love group that Morton dabbled in at one time. This information was also quite sophisticated, detailing the male and female sex anatomy and discussing the divers aspects of bringing pleasure to a woman during sexual intercourse—information that I am positive most of us today regard as common knowledge—or perhaps I am only hoping so.
     Lovecraft however was himself loathe to discuss with anyone any aspect of sex and especially his own sex life. Sonia recalled that “when the boys and HPL used to meet in his (Sam Loveman’s) studio room on Clinton Street, when I was not there—whether they did it on purpose or to tease him, they would open a conversation re sex, knowing that HPL did not like to listen to such stories, Sam Loveman asked HPL whether he didn’t feel ashamed or disgusted to think that his parents had to cohabit in order to have his mother conceive a child. HP made no reply but HP must have been much embarrassed. . . . Although HP was not a fighting man, and because Sam was his guest, he did not punch him. . . . Yet HPL took pride in telling me that he was born on the mattress on which we both slept. This, I believe, he told no one but me.”
     Sonia also reaffirmed a statement that I have heard from various sources—that when HPL was growing to young manhood, “his mother’s admonitions to him were ‘devastating.’” This possibly pertains to HPL’s looks—his mother did tell him that he was “grotesque” and that he should not go out at daytime for fear of scaring the neighbours. No doubt some sexual admonitions arose also, for the entire family, according to what Sonia recalls Annie Gamwell telling her, knew of Winfield Lovecraft’s paresis, and the adventures with prostitutes and women on his lengthy travels that gave him his affliction. In fact, Annie told Sonia prior to her marrying HPL that they could not have children—in fact this was a warning that Annie was giving to Sonia, and to me her choice of words was interesting—could not instead of should not.
     In another unpublished memoir, Sonia stated that—“Of course, I did not expect him to be an ample provider but I did harbour some secret expectations that he might, after all, prove to be normal as a husband and lover. I felt however, that his inhibitions were provoked more or less by his severe Puritanical bringing up.” This inhibition was clarified when I spoke with Sonia and tape-recorded our conversation—HPL never once made any sexual overtures to his wife—she, Sonia, always had to make the overtures for their sexual relations, however, as she stated to me, HPL had read up on his husbandly duty, and he was more than adequate in his performance. “He was reared more like a girl evidently instead of being reared like a man; yet he was far from unsexed as someone has stated. But it was this sort of up-bringing, I believe, that made him squeamish and prudish about perfectly natural functions. The very mention of the word sex seemed to upset him. He did, however, make the statement once that if a man cannot be or is not married at the greatest height of his sex-desire, which in his case, he said was at age 19, he became somewhat unappreciative of it after he passed thirty. I was somewhat shocked but held my peace.” Most likely, at the age he married, Lovecraft was truly not any longer motivated to any length by sexual drives or urges—I believe that he was at that age, and probably all his life, one of those rare persons who do not have much sex drive or much sexual interest. This does not mean that he was not able to perform, nor that he did not want to.
     As I recall her telling me, HPL was perfectly adequate sexually and more so, for she stated that HPL knew how to please a woman sexually. When I reported this statement to another friend of HPL, he stated that most likely since HPL had no previous sexual experiences, his orgasms were so long in occurring that his wife was able to achieve orgasm before he did. After much thought, and more practical testing, I frankly dispute some of this, for Sonia made it quite clear to me that HPL knew how to please a woman—she did not say that he pleased her, which obviously he did—but significantly that he knew how to please her.
     Quite likely this remark about HPL having a prolonged orgasm might be true, but even more likely is that HPL read or heard of some small sophisticated sex techniques. Sonia, although at the height of her sexual desires at this time in her life, was most certainly not a demanding wife sexually, as I have determined from hearing her relations with her two other husbands, so I would be inclined to grant HPL some minimal expertise under the circumstances—I would even be inclined to think that a thoughtful, gentle and slow lover would qualify as sophisticated for those days, and this HPL was. Clearly, Sonia indicated to me that their relationship was not unsatisfactory or non-existent sexually, and that HPL did more than to achieve a hasty and painful intromission without any foreplay, arriving at an immediate orgasm. We shall never know to what degree of sophistication HPL made use of during his sexual relations, but can only acknowledge that he was more than adequate and more than average (even for today I am inclined to think) in this facet of his private life. He was most certainly not, as Sonia assured me, disgusted with sex, or sexual relations, in the bedroom where a gentleman would insist they belong, nor was he disgusted in the least with the prospect or thought of those relations.
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