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Virginia Smith | Sexual Habits of the Amish, and Other Things I’ve Learned

August 28, 2012

Virginia SmithA PLAIN AND SIMPLE HEARTI knew that title would grab your attention! Before you read further, let me assure you that I do not intend to describe intimate details of the Amish or any other people group in this article. I’m going to talk about some of the interesting practices and beliefs I discovered while researching the books in the Amish of Apple Grove series, THE HEART’S FRONTIER and A PLAIN AND SIMPLE HEART, which I co-authored with the fantastic, the awesome, the incredibly talented Lori Copeland.

When an author performs research for a story, she unearths all sorts of facts and fascinating details, most of which never make it into the book. That’s because a good novel focuses on characters and action, with just enough historical detail to lend a sense of realism. But some things are just so much fun to talk about! Here are a few tidbits I found interesting that didn’t make it into A PLAIN AND SIMPLE HEART:

Amish People Don’t Drive Cars

Amish people travel from place to place in a horse and buggy. Some communities are permitted to own bicycles, though not all of them. None are permitted to own or drive cars. For longer trips that might require travel on a highway or interstate where a buggy is not practical, they hire drivers or take a bus. You’re probably saying, “Yeah, everybody knows that.” What I didn’t realize is that the rules for travel vary widely from district to district. In some communities rubber tires are prohibited, so bicycles have wooden wheels. In at least one district in Holmes County, Ohio, an Amish person may be a passenger in an Englisch (or non-Amish) person’s car, but they may not sit on the driver’s side of the vehicle, even in the back seat.

Amish People Drink Wine

In moderation, of course. (That kind of explains why they’re such good cheese makers, huh?) Not all Amish people imbibe, and not all districts permit wine consumption except during communion. Communion is served only twice each year, and often the wine has been homemade by the wife of the district’s bishop.

Amish Fashion Wear

I chuckle as I write that heading, because what we think of as “fashion wear” is about as far from the Amish practices as a skateboard from a Lexus. We’ve all seen Amish women walking around in long dresses with those distinctive bonnets on their heads. Clothing styles are dictated by the leaders of each district, and the rules are strictly applied. All dresses are cut from the same pattern, thereby eliminating individuality or pride. Some communities permit colors besides black, though the colors also are strictly mandated. Their head coverings are called kapps, and I was intrigued to discover that there are dozens of different styles. Though they are always white, they vary in size, lace length, and brim design. Not that an Amish woman may choose the style she wants; that is dictated by the leaders. Each community has a specific style of kapp, and though to me they all look amazingly similar, Amish people who live in the same area can quickly identify which community a woman is from with a glance at her kapp.

Unmarried Amish Young People Sleep Together

And I do mean that literally. Uneheliche beischlaf, which is “bed courtship” or “bundling,” is a custom where an Amish boy spends the night in his girl’s bed, right in the same house with her parents. Pre-marital sex is strictly forbidden. The idea is that they can lie beside each other all night, talking but not touching, and that develops self-discipline. To discourage unseemly activity, one or both of them are wrapped sausage-style in a blanket. Sometimes the girl wears a special gown, more or less a sort of Amish chastity belt. Uneheliche beischlaf used to be practiced far more often than it is now, and in fact, most Amish communities these days don’t even like to talk about it.

I could go on and on, but then I might as well write another book and try to get these fascinating tidbits in it. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out THE HEART’S FRONTIER and A PLAIN AND SIMPLE HEART, the first two books in the Amish of Apple Grove series. I think you’ll enjoy them.

The Heart’s Frontier
Amish of Apple Grove
March 2012
A Plain And Simple Heart
Amish of Apple Grove
September 2012

Virginia Smith is the bestselling author of more than twenty inspirational novels. She and her writing partner Lori Copeland are hard at work on the third installment in the Amish of Apple Grove series, A COWBOY AT HEART. and

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