Burning bodices
January 21, 2012 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Interesting article, thanks for posting. Some very interesting critical comments over there also.
posted by motty at 8:41 AM on January 21, 2012

posted by fairmettle at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, some of the comments are actually very worth reading.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2012

Sex in the 17th century kept the torch lit by John Wilmot, The second earl of Rochester.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course, sexual discipline was never perfect. Men and women constantly gave way to temptation – and then had to be flogged, imprisoned, fined and shamed to reform them. Many others, especially the wealthy and powerful, escaped punishment.

Plus ça change....
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

from the article:

That is the world we have left behind.

Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia have some catching up to do. See, if George W Bush and his cronies really wanted to transform the Middle East they should have bombarded the place with pornography, not explosives. Of course that would have pissed off his cocksucker King Saud.
posted by bukvich at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2012

I find it disconcerting that the framing of this revolution is rooted in English language, letters and culture for the most part with references to Puritans and the occasional Dutch (i.e. that era's closer cultural interactions) yet compares that perspective with present day Afghanistan etc rather than comparing historic changes in sex and women's roles in Afghanistan etc with their present day comparisons.

An example of such would be comparing the historic era that gave birth to the Kamasutra and the Aryan/Vedic era courtesans like Amrapali who were independent women with salons of their own with the present day (ok changing in last generation or so) repression of women (thanks, Manu) and their role as well as that of sexuality in modern era India.

tl;dr Apples and oranges
posted by infini at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another excellent book on this subject is London's Sinful Secret by Dan Cruickshank. The title is a bit overblown buth the book provides an extensive look at the business of sex in England from the early 18th Century to the mid-19th Century. It is available on your popular online book seller.
posted by Sparkticus at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2012

Or rather, what Dan Holloway the first commenter on the article said.
posted by infini at 9:54 AM on January 21, 2012

Plus ça change....

Yeah, I didn't realize that when you read all of those stories of nobility and royalty illicitly canoodling that commoners were often being executed for doing the same thing.
posted by XMLicious at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2012

That Rembrandt the article starts with is beautiful. Here's its record on the British Museum (image link). If you register apparently you can download a high-res version.

Another interesting perspective on this theme is Gay American History by Jonathan Katz (may be more familiar with this cover). He did a great job collecting evidence of homosexual activity going back to the 16th century. Lots of persecution and ugliness, but some beauty and love too.
posted by Nelson at 11:40 AM on January 21, 2012

Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia have some catching up to do. See, if George W Bush and his cronies really wanted to transform the Middle East they should have bombarded the place with pornography, not explosives. Of course that would have pissed off his cocksucker King Saud.
posted by bukvich at 12:30 PM on January 21

when it comes to Saudi Arabia and the US, the cocksucking happens the other way around.
posted by liza at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

True liza but the facts would have fragged the perfect symmetry of my sentence.

When I googled the celebrity 19th century hos in the article I found this astounding item but it's above my pay grade: whore biographies.
posted by bukvich at 1:27 PM on January 21, 2012

While the medieval period in England was certainly not a period of sexual liberty, the author of that article has really emphasised the repressive aspects. This is a period which drew pictures of a couple in bed together in the margins of a prayerbook. Of course, anyone who's read The Canterbury Tales is aware of this (glad to see that mentioned in the comments).

As someone with a particular interest in the medieval period I know I'm guilty of "my favourite period in history did X better than yours" at times, but this author seems to have a very bad case of this in regards to the 18th century.

Sexual intercourse began
In seventeen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Seven Years War
And Haydn's Symphony Number Thirteen.

Doesn't scan well.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:06 PM on January 21, 2012

I’m pretty sure sex was invented in the late 60’s, but they were doing it wrong until the last few years when the current generation of teens to early 20’s figured out how to do it right.

It’s amazing how most people think that the world was invented in whatever year they turned 15.
"We are constantly being surprised that people did things well before we were born."
-Robert Benchley
posted by bongo_x at 10:26 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm late to comment, but in case anyone is still reading this: I can vouch with coobeastie, that earlier periods had much more sexual freedom than this author argues. I think he's using Early Modern theories of chastity rather than looking at practices, and he's also using the earlier periods as a strawman.

He doesn't account for the rather exuberant sexual/romantic lives of 16th and early 17th century Englishmen and women. Yes, the puritans were offensively, well, puritanical, but there was a much larger community of people who resisted that approach, to the point of despising it. A cursory glance at Jacobean and Elizabethan City Comedy and other forms of social satire makes it pretty clear that attitudes were not at all puritanical: lots of sex, licit and illicit, lots of cuckoldry and skirt chasing, and lots of intelligent women, married and unmarried, who set out to get their man and do.

The church court punishments for adultery and fornication were public shaming -- walking through the streets in a sheet, standing in front of the church door with a lit taper and publicly proclaiming one's sins -- not execution.

Since most people married quite late, in their mid to late 20's, they did have some forms of sexual experience before marriage; actual penis in vagina sex, maybe not (pregnancy was always a fear) but there's lots of evidence of plenty of merry fondling/frolicking, and, well, licking. So to speak.
posted by jrochest at 1:01 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course, one could go a step further and simply assume that sex has been in existence since the dawn of mankind. Sort of like the chicken and egg, though I do wonder which came first...
posted by infini at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2012

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