• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Were respectable Victorians any more concerned about sex than their great grandparents had been?

Extracts from this document...


Were respectable Victorians any more concerned about sex than their great grandparents had been? Before one can answer the question above, two key terms need to be explained: 'respectable' and 'sex'. The Victorian climate was such that the term respectable is usually applied only to those members of society with sufficient status to be marked out as noticeable in a rural/urban setting. To this extent, it is perhaps more correct to realise that the question is aiming towards those Victorians of middle to high status than those of the middle and upper classes. More to the point, respectable may mean either those people of status, or those men of high status. 'Sex' is a term that carries two main connotations, intercourse and gender. Gender itself is a pretty wide ranging issue, covering the role of women in both social life and in the home, as well as increasing political activity from females. In effect, the question is somewhat multi-faceted, and requires a three-sided response: how far were men more aware of women's need and rights in the nineteenth century than in the eighteenth; how did the role of the female change between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and, how did general attitudes towards intercourse and women change in a broader sense? ...read more.


decreased rapidly, yet this may be representative more of the austere privacy of the Victorian household which would be reluctant to admit such activities than an actual fall in such indiscretions. In effect, the attitudes towards women changed. They changed in both the way women were treated, and in the assumption of traditional female roles in the household of men. Yet the Victorian woman was equally different from her eighteenth century counterpart. The Victorian woman was a changing force in society. Such occurrences as the Custody of Infants Act of 1839, and the later trend for educating girls at schools (both precipitated women) give evidence to the changing female character. The Custody of Infants Act in particular is representative of the power able to be exercised by Victorian women over their husbands. This Act, which crystallised after the legal battle fought by Caroline Norton to keep her children after separation from a violent husband. This not only shows that the female had a right to her children in equal capacity to her husband, but also that there was an ability for a woman to challenge a man in a court- a legal power not previously seen. It also is indicative of the new emphasis on motherhood, or more to the point, its importance over and above the importance of the male figure. ...read more.


In effect, trends of sex education were just breaking through, but nonetheless they were there. In conclusion, the Victorians were more aware of sex, both categorical and carnal. Trends towards traditional sexual roles were changed as men frequently took over roles at home, and women often took over their husbands businesses after death. Family trends revolutionised the position of the male at home, along with a willingness to consider women's rights by allowing the Custody and Divorce Acts to be passed through parliament. Moreover, the Victorian female was able to push for such reform as she found a new social and political voice not before experience. This is not to say that suddenly the female was the central character in society, far from it. Husband continued to beat wives, and the Divorce Act didn't precipitate a mass rush for every abused female to divorce their husbands. The female role was still very much subordinate to the male, but it was significantly improved on the position of the eighteenth century female. Trends towards intercourse complemented this as trends in marriage changed the way Victorian men sought sex. Prostitution declined and the social/medical considerations of sex changed in a way not seen in the eighteenth century. Although the austere male dominated society still excused the male from any blame of carnal desire, as compared with the female who was pushed to extremes of frigidity or insatiability. In effect, awareness of sex was increased, or at least more openly discussed. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Discuss the change from the "one sex" model to the "two sex" model and ...

    a specifically female skeleton emerged."9 So the question of why the two sex model emerged cannot be explained simply by advances in medical knowledge nor scientific progress. Rather, it must be understood within the historical context of a turbulent political transformation to establish a new modern social order.

  2. Theories of Sex and Gender

    In fatherless families, boys and girls still emerge with gender appropriate behaviours. A fathers' absence appears to have little impact on the development of boys' gender roles and virtually none on girls'. STEVENSON & BLACK, (1988, as cited in HARALAMBOS et al, 2002)

  1. As the nineteenth century opened, life presented few opportunities for women to experience personal ...

    . they are not natural reformers, but become such by the pressure of exceptional misfortune" (138). When he asks Hollingsworth for his opinion of women, he receives this reply: "She is the most admirable handiwork of God, in her true place and character. Her place is at man's side.

  2. Does the 'collapse of synthesis' adequately explain the later decline of Nonconformity?

    Helmstadter draws a parallel between the evangelical religious influence and Liberalism. Liberalism and Nonconformity did share common ground and allied themselves, especially around 1850-70. They both supported social and political changes and attracted the up-and-coming middle classes While Nonconformists admired Gladstone's upright and moral principles, Gladstone could see the benefits

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work