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Lie Back and Think of England
"To the sensitive young woman who has had the benefits of proper upbringing, the wedding day is, ironically, both the happiest and most terrifying day of her life. On the positive side, there is the wedding itself, in which the bride is the central attraction in a beautiful and inspiring ceremony, symbolizing her triumph in securing a male to provide for all her needs for the rest of her life. On the negative side, there is the wedding night, during which the bride must pay the piper, so to speak, by facing for the first time the terrible experience of sex."

For women, sex is a chore, a duty that must be endured. God knows they don't enjoy the sex act. Feigning headaches, stomachaches and menses can only postpone the dreaded inevitable. Then it's time to grit your teeth, hike your skirt, Lie Back and Think of England.

The phrase originated in one Lady Hillingdon's journal, where she wrote in 1912 that "When I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, open my legs and think of England." Whether she was entirely serious is unclear, but since her husband had retired because of his bad health, it's entirely possible that this was a heartfelt expression of her feelings. Keep in mind, though, that in this time period it wasn't unheard of for a woman of Lady Hillingdon's class to have to choose between marrying a syphilis-infected rake thirty years her senior who didn't bathe regularly and had no interest in pleasing her, and enduring daily violent beatings from her parents until she acquiesced (something they don't tell you about in history class). In other words, lying back and thinking of England may have been the best of bad options. Additionally, Lady Hillingdon was in her fifties when she wrote this, and so may have had problems related to the menopause—many now treatable—which rendered sex no longer enjoyable for her. Finally, contrary to Common Knowledge, it's got nothing to do with Queen Victoria, who had died 10 years earlier and who was very Happily Married.

Today, the phrase is highly discredited, and is usually used to parody the idea that women lack sex drives. All the following examples are parodies. The serious version of the sentiment is "All Women Are Prudes" and is not as severe. It has also found second life as an Inverted Trope, one used to prolong a sexual experience: when a man is reaching the point of no return, he may get in the habit of thinking of something else to try and muster up some more stamina. Thinking of Baseball (or Cricket, or some other sport - perhaps even one in which balls are not struck with some form of stick) is especially common. Thinking of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day is a terrifying last resort recommended only for characters in comedies (... however, young men in Latin American countries were often recommended to think of Celia Cruz - before her death, that is).

Compare British Stuffiness and Stiff Upper Lip, related to the same national stereotypes. Contrast Think Unsexy Thoughts. For a much more serious trope about wives "putting up with" sex they don't actually want, see Marital Rape License.


Examples

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    Fan Fiction 
  • This phrase is used a lot in Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction. As in, a LOT (but it's usually a massive inversion of the trope).
  • Mentioned in the Thor fanfic Between Worlds, during a flashback showing Loki taking a young noblewoman to bed. She invokes this (replace England with Asgard), thinking that he will not let her enjoy the experience. She's wrong.
  • Done in the Frozen fanfic Ice On The Rhine, where Elsa has a marriage/procreation agreement with Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon) and on her wedding night she lies back and thinks of Arendelle. However in Elsa's case it's less dislike of sex, and more due to political calculus.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Like Water for Chocolate, this view is held by both men and women. They have sex only to procreate, they use a special bedsheet between them with just a small hole you-know-where; and before the act they both pray to God, asking forgiveness for any pleasure they might accidentally have while trying to make a baby.
    • This system is used by one of the main characters because he isn't attracted to the woman he is about to have sex with. He married her to become closer to her sister, the one he actually loves. But because he doesn't want to dishonor his wife or fail to fulfill his duties as a man, he agrees to have quick, unenjoyable sex once in a while.
  • The Assignment.
    Jack Shaw: Don't think of it as cheating on your wife. Think of it as... fuckin' for your flag.
    Amos: When in doubt, close your eyes and think of England.
  • A variation in The Guns of Navarone. Sergeant Miller is trying to force Captain Mallory to kill a traitor.
    Miller: Climb down off that cross of yours, close your eyes, think of England, and pull the trigger!
  • Done by James Bond of all people in Thunderball.
    James Bond: My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?
    • Also, in You Only Live Twice, Bond mutters, "The things I do for England," while unzipping an evil woman's dress.
  • Parodied and gender-flipped in xXx. When Xander has to sleep with one of the Big Bad's prostitutes to maintain his cover, he smirks and mumbles "Oh, the things I'm gonna do for my country."
  • The Right Stuff: When John Glenn (Ed Harris) has to masturbate for a sperm sample, he's heard humming the Marines' Hymn ("From the halls of Montezuma..."). In the next stall, Air Force pilot Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) tries to outdo him, humming a spirited rendition of the Air Force Song ("Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...").
  • Mocked in The Stone of Destiny, when it comes time to suit up to steal the stone of destiny in question, Ian must get all of his tools on inside the car, with Gavin's help. To stop him from squirming, Gavin tells him to "lie back and think of Scotland."
  • Invoked word for word in the Rifftrax of The Room. Michelle is trying to convince Lisa that it's wrong to cheat on Johnny. As Michelle leaves, she reminds Lisa to "think about what I said." Kevin says "Just lie back and think of England." In this case, though, it isn't so much that anyone thinks Lisa shouldn't enjoy sex, but because Johnny looks like "a catfish in a suit."

    Literature 
  • Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride (etc.) is a 19th century educational pamphlet intended to prepare upright young women for the horrors of — (shoulder check) — sex. It is an obvious hoax, but it's probably one of the most amusing parodies of the trope you'll ever read.
  • In one scene in Hunting Ground, from the Mercy Thompson universe, Anna is taking the lead during sex and being particularly active and assertive. Her husband teases her by saying, "Well, I'll just lie back and think of England, then." Her response is that if he's thinking of England, she's not doing it right, and steps up the action.
  • In 1984, "goodthinkful" women are taught to call sexual intercourse "our duty to the Party." Of course, men are discouraged from enjoying sex as well, and it's the Party's goal to get it seen as a disgusting but necessary act because the Party doesn't want anyone to feel devotion or attachment to anything but the Party. It's mentioned that the Party's scientists are working on altering the nervous system to remove the orgasm entirely.
  • Similarly, in The Handmaid's Tale, the unnamed narrator character mentally advises the newly wedded girls to "lie back and think of England," in reference to Gilead's puritanical views of sex.
  • Invoked in The Guardians by Alice when she's trying to convince Jake that she's not attracted to him.
    Jake: "So you'll let me [kiss you]?"
    Alice: "I will if I must. I shall bear it by thinking of England."
  • In the Gemma Doyle books, Felicity mentions this trope when the girls find a picture of a man and woman having sex. Though all four girls have sex drives to some extent (Gemma kisses Kartik and gets aroused, Felicity and Pippa are Lipstick Lesbians), so they laugh when the phrase is brought up.
  • In To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Robert A. Heinlein doesn't use the exact quote (only reasonable, since most of the book is set in the US). But before Maureen's wedding, her mother gives her the "traditional" introduction-to-sex talk and tells her to just lie back and think of her children. Why she bothers is unclear, since Maureen, like most Howard Families brides of that time (including all female relatives whose first marriages are discussed), is pregnant, and her mother is very well aware Maureen has had an active sex life for quite some time.
  • Subverted, justified and gender switched in Mix Beer With Liquor And You Will Get Sicker. Lauchlan goes into his relationship with near to no knowledge of male to male relations beyond tab A goes into slot B. He actually believes than the dominant partner will be the only participant who feels pleasure, and resigns himself to performing this trope. Thankfully, Corbin is quick to disillusion him.
  • The protagonist of Moving Mars (except, you know, with Mars instead of England) uses this line to counter a clumsy seduction attempt from her boss.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, Sophie may have been brought up to follow this trope, despite Jack's best efforts to encourage her to enjoy their marital relations. Then again, Jack approaches sex with the same cheerful energy with which he approaches boarding actions, and his idea of foreplay is getting drunk at dinner. Sophie has good reason to not enjoy sex with her husband.
  • In Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, the heroine, when she was forced to sleep with the man who bid for her virginity, lay back and "put all the force of my mind to work in making a sort of mental barrier between [the man] and meI searched the shadows on the ceiling for something to distract me."
  • Word of God implies this in for Jedi in some eras of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Sex is not forbidden, but attachment is. Think on that for a second.
  • This happens in Froi Of The Exiles where Quintana is forced to be with all the last-born males in the hope of breaking the curse of non-fertility in their country. She just makes shapes in the shadows with her hands while they quickly finish.
  • In the Maggody mysteries, Mrs. Jim Bob's mother taught her that a proper wife should lie back and think of England. She takes this recommendation literally, although she'd never understood what England had to do with a small-town Arkansas woman's sex life.
  • Something along these lines is stated to be what the prostitute characters resort to in Redeeming Love, to the point that the heroine, a former prostitute herself, cannot understand why her husband possibly thinks she is capable of enjoying sex. Fortunately, he eventually proves her cynicism wrong in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Jace tells Clary to do this before they kiss in front the fairy court in The Mortal Instruments. More like "Close your eyes and think of England."
  • Cersei Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire recalls that during the first years of her marriage with Robert Baratheon, she simply closed her eyes and imagined it was Rhaegar Targaryen instead of her husband.
    • When Brienne of Tarth was in danger to be raped, Jaime Lannister suggested her to not fight but go inside her own mind and think on Renly Baratheon, the man she had been in love with.
  • More common than not in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Sex is often something the female characters need to endure, not enjoy. Princess Sophia in particular does her best to knock herself out with wine before consummating her marriage.

    Live Action TV 
  • The line itself was used by Bear Grylls in one episode of Man vs. Wild. So, what could a man on a show about wilderness survival be doing saying a line like that? No, nothing like that. He was demonstrating how to use an enema to bypass consuming dirty water to absorb the nutrients.
  • In Will and Grace, when Jack is dating Beverly Leslie (Karen was forcing him to be with Beverly because she was broke and he was rich) he mentions that he doesn't really want to stay with him and doesn't want to "do it." Karen simply saying, "Oh you'll do it. You'll do it the same way any self-respecting woman does. Get on your back, point your heels to Jesus and think of handbags."
  • Dempsey and Makepeace, episode "The Squeeze":
    "Besides, he's only with us for 12 months. Lie back and enjoy it. Think of England."
  • Stargate Atlantis, episode "The Return: Part 2":
    Richard Woolsey: He put his hand in my forehead. How can you resist that?
    Maj. Gen. Jack O'Neill: Well, I like to close my eyes and think of England.
  • Torchwood has "Lie back and think of Torchwood" in the episode "Countrycide" while Owen tends to Gwen's gunshot wound.
  • Discussed and invoked on That '70s Show. Jackie knows that the trope isn't true, but pretends it is anyway. If the guys find out that girls enjoy it too, Jackie will lose one of her "buy me stuff" bargaining tools.
  • Discussed and invoked again in Desperate Housewives. Gabrielle says that their mothers had the right idea. By convincing men that sex was a unpleasant chore they didn't enjoy, they were able to use it as a bargaining tool. When men realized that women enjoy it as much as men, it eliminated some of their power. Granted, it was power to lead men around by the nose, which has a whole floodgate of Unfortunate Implications.
  • Referenced in a Gilmore Girls story line. Lane says that the only thing that stuck from her ultra-religious mother is waiting to have sex until she's married, even though she does want to. When Lane is about to be married, her mom sits her down to have The Talk. Her advice basically consists of "You'll have to 'do it' with this boy. If you're lucky, like me, it will only happen once" while Lane tries not to die of embarrassment.
    • After she's married and home from her honeymoon Lane tells Rory that her first time was so awful (on the beach at sunrise, with the cold water and the sand ...) that she's convinced no woman ever sincerely enjoys it.
    • In another (humorous) reference to this, Rory gives Lorelai advice in the Living Pictures episode that in order to stay still she should "Close your eyes and think of England".
  • United States Of Tara references this in one episode, IIRC.
  • True Blood: Pam says "Lie back and think of Estonia" to Eric's new Estonian dancer, while giving her oral sex (it is unknown if any bloodsucking was involved). The girl was clearly enjoying Pam's "services."
  • Veronica Mars:
    • V suggests this as a way for Mac to get through prom with her goober of a date.
    • Mac is excited/nervous about getting a hotel room after prom; Veronica says this jokingly to calm her down.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation of The Starfighters, one of the many, many jokes made over the endless Stock Footage of midair refuelling in the movie was "just lie back and think of England's airspace."
    • For Agent for H.A.R.M., a Russian woman deals with our sleazy middle-aged "hero" Adam Chance, prompting Mike to say, "She's thinking of England, France, the entire European community, the Middle East..."
  • In the episode "Reluctant Heroes" of Highlander: The Series, Duncan MacLeod says, "Close your eyes, think of England," before cutting off an English villain's head.
  • In one episode of The New Statesman, one of the conditions that a depraved older man puts on doing a deal with Alan is having sex with Alan's flunky Piers.
    Alan: Now, Piers, just bite the pillow and think of England!
    Piers: Ohhh no! I had enough of that in boarding school!
  • Played with in Scrubs; generally, any time they pull out the "women have power over men because they can go longer without sex" joke plays it straight. One episode, less so: Carla's hoop for Turk is to prove to her that he truly knows her, which he does by giving her a gift which is relevant to who she is as a person rather than the generic flowers or chocolate (in this case, a pen, because she loves to write everything down). So when he learns, and subsequently puts off sex to tell her, that it turns out the lost-and-found box where he got it is actually an " ass-and-found box", she almost tells him he doesn't get any...until she realizes he pretty much just did exactly what she told him better than any gift ever could.
    • What's weird with Scrubs is that they had one episode where Carla freaks out because she wasn't able to have an orgasm and apparently that had never happened to her before. Clearly she does enjoy sex.
  • Referenced word-for-word in Bodyline: Douglas' girlfriend says she does this whenever he starts talking about cricket.
  • An episode of How I Met Your Mother had a Flashback to Barney's youth, wherein his brother James, who at this point in time didn't yet realize that he is gay, reveals that he always thinks of his favorite sports team while having sex with women.
  • Invoked in Jonathan Creek. A female doctor says this phrase to Johnathan right before administering a rectal exam.
  • Used jokingly by Franklin on Babylon 5. When Ivanova learns that an alien diplomat will only seal a potential alliance through sex with her, he suggests, "You could put a bag over his head and do it for Babylon 5!"
  • Averted when Cora begins a conversation with Mary before her wedding on Downton Abbey, as she tells her daughter that "it really is terrible fun!"
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys has to go through this during the early days of her marriage. Drogo would simply flip her over and go to town on a whim, with no real thought to her enjoyment. After Dany learns some secrets of lovemaking, however, her marriage improves greatly both in and out of the bedroom.

    Music 
  • Punned by Skyclad as "Think Back And Lie Of England".
  • Used in Emilie Autumn's "I Know Where You Sleep": 'God Save The Queen, I fucked you, I can never live it down, I can never live it down...'
    • Pretty much a main part of "Marry Me" too.
      • "Marry Me" takes this attitude towards the ugly husband, whom she married for his money, but she has a lover on the side and maintains that "I'll fuck who I choose/ For I've nothing to lose!", implying that she's pretty active otherwise.
  • "How can you lie back and think of England when you don't even know who's in the team?" - Billy Bragg's 'Shirley'.

     Radio 
  • After Pip Bin's marriage to Ripely Fecund in Bleak Expectations, she lies back and thinks of England ... while he lies back on another bed 30 feet away and thinks of Scotland and Wales. Thereby achieving union.

    Webcomics 
  • Out There: Sherry uses "while I think of my homeland" in reference to hand-shaking, which is a parody even more than is normal. [1]
  • Invoked in Shortpacked! when Amber is trying to determine the gender of her new pet hamster.
  • Played with in this strip of Partially Clips.

    Western Animation 
  • In King of the Hill, a female police officer attracted to Hank feels him up during a frisking. For the duration he sings the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the National Anthem.
    • In another episode, Peggy has to be a substitute teacher for ... (dramatic chord) ... a sex ed class. Discussing with her female friends the teaching horrors that await her, she shows them the sex ed textbook she used while growing up — which just contains pictures of flowers. One of her friends says she used the same textbook, and that it was EXCELLENT... because she could close her eyes and imagine the flowers while her husband was having sex with her.
      Peggy: Oh, you poor thing.
    • Name-dropped in another episode where Hank and Cotton send Bobby to a military school. At lights out, the instructor tells the boys to be ready for their upperclassmens' "welcoming party". Bobby, upon hearing a noise, tells the boy at the next bunk "Lie back and think of England!"
      • This was actually told to him by Peggy, who admits she isn't sure what it means. Bobby does it literally, thinking of typical British things like Paddington Bear and the Spice Girls. (It was The Nineties.)
  • The Simpsons episode, "Postcards from the Wedge", has Lisa saying this to Bart when he is about to be given a rectum examination from Marge checking on his fever:
    Lisa: Just close your eyes and think of Milhouse. [chuckles]
  • The Futurama episode "All the Presidents' Heads" gender-flips it. During some time travel, Fry goofs and causes America to lose the Revolution. After returning to a ridiculously British 31st century America, Farnsworth doesn't want to try and fix it, since he's now a duke and wealthy beyond his wildest dreams... until he finds out that he's also the consort of the horrifically ugly Queen.
    Queen of England: That's right, love. For centuries, the Farnsworth gentleman has provided service to the Queen. Now, close your eyes and think of England.


"Beige...I think I'll paint the ceiling beige."


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alternative title(s): Close Your Eyes And Think Of England
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