There’s no actual sex in The Importance of Being Earnest. But the whole reason we have a plot is because of differing opinions on two corollaries of sex – love and marriage. We’re not going to get into all the diverse and controversial opinions on these issues, but even in the prim and proper Victorian era, the name of the game is to continue one’s family line. That means having babies. And we all know where those come from.
Birthing healthy babies requires that, ideally, both parents should be healthy. There’s a hint of this in Earnest. It’s in the scene when Jack and Algernon are planning to kill off Ernest. Jack, who has a creative streak, suggests they blame Ernest’s ‘death’ on apoplexy, a kind of severe stroke. But Algernon protests, saying: "Yes, but it’s hereditary my dear fellow. It’s a sort of thing that runs in families. You had much better say a severe chill" (I.241). After being interrogated on every aspect of his life by Lady Bracknell, Jack quickly agrees; the last thing he needs is a hereditary disease. Lady Bracknell would be sure to sink her claws into that.
Interestingly, the characters that blurt out the most suggestive lines are the women. We think this has something to do with the reversal of traditional gender roles in the play. Consider this collection of suggestive lines and notice how all of them are spoken by women: