Womens Sexuality in the 19th Century

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The chapter is otherwise an extremely usefully overview of the rise and development of sexology and of the ways in which historians have looked at it. Waters makes the often overlooked point that the roots of the history of sexuality itself lie in sexology and sexual reform. This sometimes took the form of 'manufactur[ing] a usable past' (p. 51), as in the invocation of Ancient Greece for models of non-pathological homosexuality, but also included Iwan Bloch's belief that 'historical knowledge offered an important key to understanding contemporary problems of sexuality', and his argument that sexual practices and attitudes were shaped by unique national cultural factors. Waters also demonstrates that the sexologists' writing of themselves into the history of the discipline constructed a narrative of progress into emancipation and enlightenment that endured until the 1970s. Post-Foucault, Walters claims, 'there was a tendency to veer to the other extreme, to view sexologists as insidious agents of social control', similarly overlooking sexology's 'origins as a complex product of social interaction' (pp. 54–55). More recent studies have looked at this complex process of the production of sexual knowledge, and the ways in which it was disseminated, transformed and used by a variety of constituencies.

There is an excellent account of the contingent and contextual significance of 'miscegenation' in diverse historical and geographical contexts. The overview of the relationship between scientific racism and questions of sexuality is very useful, though possibly the picture was perhaps not entirely one of evolution from primitive to civilised. Was there not, particularly with the late nineteenth century rise of degeneration theory and eugenic anxieties, a positioning of certain 'races' as effete and decadent (and given to elaborate and sophisticate 'perversions') rather than savage and primitive? This would place 'Western civilisation' at a precarious midway balance point needing constant readjustment.

Hera Cook's chapter provides a valuable introduction to the theme of demography, which deals with the most common form of sexual interaction in all societies up to the present: reproductive intercourse between individuals of differing sexes. As she points out, 'Heterosexuality was, and is, the dominant sexual culture' and needs to be historicised just as homosexuality has been. This is one of the few points at which something of a gap in the volume is foregrounded: as she states, there is, 'an implicit assumption ... that we already know what heterosexuality is, what it consists of, and what the practice involves' (pp. 22–23). I should like to have seen more attention given overall in this volume to the fact that in spite of the richness of the historiography of sexuality, there are rather large blank spaces on the map where 'heterosexuality' and in particular 'the “normal” male' reside. Cook makes the important point that reproduction is not 'a perennial, unchanging experience', and that changing birth rates over time and space, in combination with other forms of evidence, can be a way into understanding sexual cultures. In particular she argues that statistics provide an important check on anecdotal evidence relating to specific, not necessarily typical, individuals. However, to what extent were 'sharply-rising rates of syphilis recorded from the mid-nineteenth century' (p. 32) an artefact of improved clinical understandings (and awareness) of the disease and thus better diagnosis, in particular of the late (tertiary) manifestations, rather than an increase in actual cases?

The Introduction to the History of Sexuality by Foucault Essay

Efforts until recently were largely focused on cataloging James’s personal library, a rich collection of 17th-19th century European and American imprints. His personal papers, including diaries kept over sixty years of his life, extensive family correspondence, and business documents were available for research, but, until now, lacked comprehensive finding aids for interested scholars to use remotely before visiting the collection. The collection opens up many avenues for historical inquiry on a variety of topics in the study of nineteenth century American life and culture, including political, economic, gender, social, and religious history.

An essay of womens sexuality in the late 19th century

That the history of sexuality has come of age is clear. The most recent is a self-reflexive special issue on 'Theory, Methods, Praxis'. The extent to which history of sexuality has come in from the margins and is no longer lurking in the back streets has recently been manifested by the award of the /Longmans Book of the Year prize to Matt Houlbrook's . provides us with an overview of the current state of the art. The editors and the contributors are among some of the most sparkling figures in the younger generation of scholars toiling in this area.

Romanicism In 19th Century Lit Essays: ..

Essays and criticism on Food in Nineteenth-Century Literature - Critical Essays

The whole volume is, as already mentioned, acutely aware of issues around definitions and categories and the problems these raise. Alison Oram's concluding chapter discusses the questions raised by cross-dressing and transgender. This reveals the complexities that arise when discussing this topic in historical perspective. Cross-dressing took a variety of forms and could be undertaken for a range of personal and social reasons. Cases of cross-dressing individuals have been analysed from various angles, both by contemporaries and by historians. They provide a rich resource for examining specific historical concepts about gender, sexuality and transgression. Oram distinguishes between the choice to live as the opposite gender and the more self-conscious masquerade of drag, and emphasises the 'very diverse sets of meanings' that can be ascribed to cross-dressing at any given historical moment, and indeed to the significance of transgender following mid-twentieth century developments in gender reassignment through hormones and surgery. One area not explored in this otherwise excellent chapter is that of cross-dressing as erotic fetish and the phenomenon of the 'straight' male transvestite: but this would perhaps take us into rather different areas.

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Children and young people have been, and still are, at the centre of debates and moral panics to do with sexual issues, and 'concepts of childhood and youth have been crucial to the construction of modern sexualities'. As Louise Jackson argues in her chapter on 'Childhood and youth', 'Histories of youth and sexuality have overwhelmingly examined processes of categorization and regulation by adults'. The very definitions of the definitions of 'child' and 'young person' are fluid and heavily contextual. Accounts of childhood sexual experiences are usually reconstructed through an adult perspective, thus it is difficult to get at a less mediated understanding of sex in childhood. Jackson examines the construction of the highly gendered and class-inflected notions of 'childhood innocence' and the various cultural myths resting on them. However, although 'white slavery' narratives and later representations of the paedophile depend on locating abuse outside the home, the fact that an Incest Act was passed in the UK in 1908 does suggest that at one level abuse within the family was recognised even if it did not form part of pervasive cultural myths. It might have been useful to include in this chapter some discussion of the contested history of sex education, advocated on the grounds that 'ignorance is not innocence' and children should be provided with adequate knowledge to understand and withstand sexual dangers, opposing claims that disseminating such knowledge to children itself constitutes a violation of innocence.


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The city and urban spaces have become, Matt Houlbrook suggests, 'an increasingly hot academic issue'. This is a sophisticated thematic essay, as one would expect from the author of . Houlbrook asks why a generation of historians have been 'so obsessed with the city'; how urban culture has shaped and been shaped by experiences and understanding of sexual behaviour; and what is problematic in the ways historians have addressed these themes. Partly this is an artefact of the richness of the urban archival record, but that itself arose from anxieties engendering practices of surveillance over the populations of cities. This is a well-analysed and thought provoking chapter, but again, exposes a gap in the existing historiography: what were the patterns of heterosexual interaction (other than prostitution) in the city, what opportunities were enabled for new kinds of courtship and relationships? There is an intriguing meditation about cyberspace and whether this fills the role cities formerly did as sites of identity creation, pleasure, and danger: however, it would be interesting to examine earlier 'virtual' methods by which individuals combated isolation and anomie (those frequent by-products of urban life) through personal advertisements, correspondence clubs and the creation of circles via shared common interests without, necessarily, prior physical encounters.

Essay on Reform Movements of the 19th Century - 959 Words

In 1978 R. P. Neumann, in a prescient review essay just predating the appearance of a number of influential works emerging from gay and women's history and the impact of Foucault, deplored the anecdotal and simplistically theorised works then appearing. 'If the history of sexuality is to avoid being completely trivialized', he argued, 'sexual attitudes and behavior must be examined within the larger framework of social and economic history' and exhorted sex historians to 'examine their mindless materialist and progressive assumptions about human sexuality'. () The sophistication and complexity of the discussions in demonstrate just how far the field has come in nearly 30 years. These densely packed chapters discuss various fields in which history of sexuality is embroiled, the development of theories and arguments, and the questions that are being raised. Thus it is not 'a history of sexuality' as such, but a meta-level contribution providing a guide to how historians have thought, and are now thinking, about sexuality in history, focusing largely on the modern period. It provides a useful introduction to the area, if somewhat uneven due to the different approaches taken in the various chapters: but this validly represents the protean nature of the subject.