Rake Mathematics: A Deleted Scene

There’s a snippet of a conversation between Oliver and Sebastian that I kept trying to fit in The Heiress Effect, in part because I liked it so much. Alas; it never quite fit anywhere. I tried and tried to keep it in, but it never worked. Eventually, I deleted it.

But I thought you might enjoy it.

Here it is.


“Easy enough for you to say,” Oliver replied. “It’s been a while for me. When was the last time you had intercourse?”

Sebastian rubbed his upper lip, looking thoughtful. “Define intercourse.”

“You’re the rake. I should hardly think you needed a definition.”

“I’m the rake,” Sebastian shot back. “Absolutely I need a definition. I like definitions. They make me smile and make you squirm. What could be more delightful?”

Oliver made a face at Sebastian. “Penetration. The sort that could lead to procreation. Is that specific enough for you?”

“That will do. In that case, it’s been…oh, maybe nine months.”

“Nine months.” Oliver stared at his cousin. “Nine months. You can’t expect me to believe that. I know for a fact that just last week, you and Mrs. Halberdash were—”

“Ah, ah. No names.”

“What kind of a rake are you?” Oliver asked. “You’re supposed to go through a woman every week. This is unbelievable. Are you telling me that you have hidden morals?”

“Of course not.” Sebastian shrugged. “I’m the kind of rake that understands mathematics. Just think about it. Suppose I started on this weekly conquest at the age of twenty-one—rather old for it, but there we are—and that I skipped a few weeks around the holidays. If I truly had a woman every week, by now I’d be coming up on a tally of five hundred.”

“Good God.”

“Imagine that I’d attempted procreation, as you call it, with every one. Given the reported rates of venereal disease, the likelihood that I would have avoided infection would be too small to contemplate. I have too much respect for my prick to abuse it so. I don’t have weekly women, and the ones I do have, I don’t often take such risks with.”

“How can that be possible? Your reputation with women…”

Sebastian simply smiled. “Rake mathematics again. Believe it or not, a reputation for satisfying women without risking procreation or disease rather adds to one’s cachet as a lover. It doesn’t subtract.”


Want to know how small “too small to contemplate” really is? At the time, the estimated rates of venereal disease infection were exceptionally high—anywhere from 10 to 30%. That means that the chances of a woman being disease-free were (all other things being equal) at best around 90%.

A one-in-ten chance isn’t pretty, but what are the chances that a rake sleeps with 500 women who have no diseases? That's (.9)^500—or 1.23 x 10^-23.

Put another way, a rake in Victorian times who had unprotected penetrative sex with 500 women had a 0.0000000000000000000001% chance of sleeping with nobody who had diseases.

Even if you imagine that our rake in question had some awesome rake superpower that allowed him to skip the worst cases, so that he only slept with women who were 99% likely to be clean, a rake who slept with 500 women who were 99% likely to have nothing has a .6% chance of avoiding someone who was infected.

There’s a reason I don’t often write rakes. This dose of rake mathematics has been brought to you by the letters C and M.