Рубрика: The Origins of Sex

Liberty and equality

I have concentrated on the English case; but similar trends can be traced after 1800, at least in outline, in other western European and English-speaking societies. Conversely, one way of characterizing what has happened in the western world since the 1960s would be to say that the Victorian compromise has increasingly broken down. The social […]


To explore their development after 1800 in detail would require a comprehensive description of the whole period: for, as was the case in preceding centuries, the evolution of sexual attitudes reflected the changing characteristics of the culture in general. My aim here is more modest. Histories of modern sexuality rarely consider the world before 1800, […]


By the end of the eighteenth century, a new openness about sex had transformed the culture of the English-speaking world. A whole range of sexual ideas and practices, within and without marriage, was now discussed, celebrated, and indulged more publicly than ever before. From our own perspective it is easy to see the limits of […]


The rising popularity of courtesans was therefore part of a whole ser­ies of interrelated developments in eighteenth-century society. It was the product of new attitudes to fame and notoriety, of novel forms of writing, of changing attitudes towards public opinion, and of shifting assumptions about personal identity. It also epitomized the emergence of a new […]


The expanding scope of biography brings us to the final indication of shifting attitudes towards sex and publicity in this period: the grow­ing fame of types of people previously regarded as disreputable. Traditionally, biography had served a moral purpose. The lives of saints, martyrs, rulers, divines, and other worthies were valuable as exemplars of virtue, […]


The eighteenth century thus saw the birth of a new type of media cul­ture, in which both private affairs and personal opinions came to be given unprecedented publicity. This development fuelled the freer public discussion of sexual matters, facilitated the celebrity of immoral women, and provided novel opportunities for the manipulation of public opinion. What […]


The popular press and its social counterparts, such as debating clubs and coffee-houses, were not merely the means of discussion: their practices also altered the very terms of debate. The new types of exchange created novel ways of thinking about morality. This was the second way in which the new media affected sexual sensibilities.1 For […]


Its most obvious cause was an immense growth in printed media. Already by 1700 the population of London was markedly more liter­ate than that of the rest of the country. Most men and women in the capital could read and write, including the bulk of servants and appren­tices. Ever since the invention of printing, however, […]

Sexual celebrity

The best way into these questions is through one of the most striking novelties of eighteenth-century culture: a growing public fascination with the lives of low-born whores. Around 1700 this would have been unimaginable. Even in London, few prostitutes ever became famous enough to be widely known or written about. By the end of the […]