Just a few answers...
Posted by Lesley on December 22, 1997 at 23:03:30:
In response to Attitudes on sex, written by irl on December 22, 1997 at 17:01:05
] In my own culture, women and men are both expected to be virgins when they marry, and yet we (those in my culture) experience somewhat lower-than-average rates of adultery, fornication, and divorce.
I can't say whether this attitude was prevalent in all of Regency England but I suspect that it was the prevailing attitude in Jane Austen's family. I remember one passage in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth is re-evaluating Mr. Darcy's attributes and the phrase was something like, "Mr. Darcy was not a man of irreligious habits." I am pretty sure this would preclude Mr. Darcy from frequenting prostitutes! Also, in the letters to from JA's father to his son's in the navy he instructs them to be careful of various and sundry vices. I have read David Cecil's and Park Honan's biographies of JA so this last bit of information came from one of these books.
I think you are very lucky to be living in a culture where both parties are expected to conform to the same rules of behavior and the vexing problem of the double standard does not exist. Is your bio posted? I would be interested in learning more about you culture.
However, I think Marie Bernadette has made a good point that human rights are very important for all sexes equally and I think we would all agree that prostitution preys on the weakest members of our society who would probably not choose that way of life if given the choice. In many cases, I would think that this happens to children when they are very young as a result of neglect, abuse, and apalling vice.
During the Regency era, human rights were not very good by our standards. When JA's Aunt Perrot went to court, accused of stealing some ribbon, a 14 year old boy was sentenced to hang for stealing bread. Also, a man could divorce his wife for adultery but she could not divorce him for the same reason.
Also, I think Marie Bernadette was trying to make a point about Regency "prudishness" compared to the later Victorian era. (Correct me if I am wrong!) For instance, in one of JA's letters, she mentions that a couple with many children should think about occupying separate bedrooms! Cassandra burnt many of JA's letters if she thought they contained anything inappropriate, yet she let this one survive. Also, JA makes another comment about a woman who "was brought to bed of a stillborn child." JA says in one of her letters that it was probably due to the wife accidently looking at her husband!
I can't imagine these comments coming from a Victorian spinster! Victorians even covered up the legs of their pianos and referred to their arms and legs as limbs. The former terms were too indelicate for polite society.
I was also interested in your comment that the ideals of human rights existed long before the age of enlightenment. I would be interested in what you know about this. I can't really remember this being a big cause during the middle ages, unless you are talking about the various Celtic peoples fighting the English. (William Wallace, for example) In the ancient world, it is my understanding that slavery was pretty much the rule of thumb and the rights of women and children entirely depended on the character of the husband and father. For instance in the Greek and Roman world, laws were pretty much made for free males.
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