Posted by Marie Bernadette on December 23, 1997 at 01:20:23:
In response to Attitudes on sex, written by irl on December 22, 1997 at 17:01:05
Prudism, as I was using the word, indirectly creates prostitution. When women are repressed and there is a double standard, their choices are extremely limited. If a woman did not marry and had no family member to support her (or was divorced, widowed, etc.) she could very well have found herself on the street in those times because the very few jobs deemed respectable often did not pay enough for a woman to survive on her own. Prostitution was often the only way for a woman to survive and a woman living on her own was often suspected of being a prostitute even if she wasn't. I have two books that deal with this (and other related) subjects. They are The Family, Marriage and Sex in England 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone and The Reshaping of Everyday Life by Jack Larkin. The first does extend into the 1800's eventhough its subtitle suggests otherwise.
] Personally, I do not like prostitution, but I also do not like the prudism that ultimately and indirectly creates it.
I think it was a very sad state of affairs, indeed, that prostitution was sometimes the only option available for women. If society had not been so restrictive women in dire circumstances would have had more respectable options available and so would not have had to prostitute themselves and a more permissive society would probably have provided options to prevent a woman from finding herself in dire consequences in the first place. Not many women, then or now, choose prostitution. It is usually a desparate act. The life of a prostitute is rife with pain and suffering, neglect and abuse. It is also a very short life.
] Interesting hypothesis -- "prudism" creates prostitution. What do you mean by "prudism", and what evidence (beyond mere conjecture) do you have that it is a generative of prostitution?
] The Regency Era, and the prevailing attitudes of that time, was directly influenced by the preceeding liberal era. When women are restricted and expected to be virgins, men seek gratification elsewhere and so there is an increase in prostitution (how moral is that?).
] I reject your hypothesis. Saudi Arabia (regardless of the falsity or truth of whatever horror stories you may have heard about it) has an almost immeasurably-low rate of prostitution. It exists, but is extremely difficult to find. And yet, women are highly "restricted" and are expected to be virgins when they marry. 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.
You say that both men and women are expected to be virgins, but in the Regency (to a certain extent) and the Victorian era (to a great extent) only women were expected to be virgins. I am objecting to the double standard; that is what I find immoral. Virginity for both men and women is a respectable ideal, but if one or both are not virgins society is often to quick to condemn without knowing the circumstances. Fidelity within marriage (for the husband as well as the wife) has many important advantages (both then and now), but all too often if there is a double standard it is the woman who suffers. There was a double standard in the Regency period but I think it was more extreme in the Victorian times because attitudes in general were less permissive and so less forgiving. Women didn't have any more rights in the Victorian era but were more restricted and so suffered more as a result of lack of rights.
] Both of these examples seem to gainsay your proposition. Perhaps you can provide some evidence to the contrary.
] However, when a more liberal attitude prevails and women make their own choices there is less prostitution.
] I submit that the U.S. today gives as much choice to women as any other culture we know of, and perhaps more. Are you suggesting that prostitution in the U.S. is LESS than it has been in the past, or than it is elsewhere where more "prudish" standards prevail?
] The liberalism of the 18th century introduced the concepts of civil rights, women's rights and the abolition of slavery; in effect, these concepts produced a more moral society.
] Those concepts existed long before the 18th century. As for producing a "more moral society", that would depend on one's definition of "moral". Judged solely on the topic of prostitution, I would guess this statement to be false.
The concept of women's rights, civil rights and the abolition of slavery certainly did exist long before the eighteen century (e-mail moi for an array of books, mags and articles on that subject) but it was in that century that those concepts and ideals came out into the open and into the lives of the everyday people and not just discussed in fashionable salons. Those ideas became more widespread at that time than in previous eras.
] I have read many books on the topic and have found that people in the Regency era were not prudes and I often shake my head when I hear people talk as if they were.
] I wonder again how you define "prude". Is one a prude who believes that sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong?
A prude is someone who vilifies and severely restricts sexual conduct (and other forms of conduct, as well, I suppose). No, one is not necessarily a prude if one believes sex should not occur outside of marriage. There are many good reasons to keep sex within marriage (or at least a very committed relationship). In other eras, including the Regency, but not the Victorian) sex (not necessarily intercourse, mind you) was permissible for couples who were engaged (to be married, that is.) Engaged couples were allowed more freedoms and interactions. (I read statements to that effect in the aforementioned books, as well as other sources).
] It is very interesting to observe the connection between corsets and morality. It appears to me that when women are corseted (restricted) society is more conservative and therefore less concerned with civil rights and so less moral.
] So "conservative = immoral"? What does "conservative" mean?
Conservative in that the restictions imposed are illogical and repressive. Conservative in the sense of an oppressive and intolerant society.
] When women are not in corsets (not restricted) society is more liberal and so the civil rights that are the definition of the ultimate morality are more highly valued.
] Whose definition of "the ultimate morality" are we talking of? Your own? Do you suppose that JA would agree with your (inferred, perhaps wrongly -- if so, sorry) "liberal" attitudes on sex and virginity? Do you suppose that almost any person of that era would hold such attitudes, or admit to it if they did?
Yes, I do suppose persons of that era (and many others) would hold such views. Would JA approve? I do not presume to know and I do not care no matter how much I enjoy her novels. As for 'ultimate morality', I define that as tolerance, respect and equal rights for all people regardless of race, sex, nationality, religion, etc.
] Last questions: Is this topic and post appropriate for this board? If not, would the powers-that-be please remove my offending post(s)? Thank you.
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