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Nineteenth Century Sexualities Dr Chris Pearson. Colette (1873-1954)

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Presentation on theme: "Nineteenth Century Sexualities Dr Chris Pearson. Colette (1873-1954)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Nineteenth Century Sexualities Dr Chris Pearson

2 Colette (1873-1954)

3 Colettes wedding night: The husband, tight and graceless, undertook his assault on the nuptial bed, his face illuminated by excessive appetites. He stank of stale cigar and liqueur, and as he claimed his due he showed all the gallantry of a sailor on shore leave.

4 History and Sexuality Michel Foucaults The History of Sexuality (1976-1984) Attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour have histories linked to wider power relations Difficult for social historians to research this intensely private subject

5 Lecture themes Attempts by doctors and other experts to police and control sexual behaviour Changes and continuities vis-à-vis attitudes towards sexuality

6 Lecture outline Female sexuality Male sexuality Policing homosexuality

7 Female sexuality and the enlightenment New medical opinions on female sexuality Female identity and sexuality determined by sexual organs and reproductive functions Biological determinism: women naturally submissive Womens sexual organs made them irrational and emotional

8 Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Critic of salon women

9 Madame du Berry

10 Marie- Antoinette

11 The revolution and female sexuality Revolutionaries influenced heavily by Enlightenment theories and supposed link between female sexuality and political corruption during the enlightenment Revolutionaries stated that women should withdraw from the public sphere and be good mothers

12 The Merveilleuses during the Thermidorian period

13 Civil Code (1804) Married women had to submit to their husbands will Wives the property of their husbands The Double Standard vis-à-vis adultery; wives could be imprisoned, husbands could play around with impunity Civil code banned paternity suits

14 It was in a prostitutes bed that most sons of the lower and, to an even greater extent middle class, had their first sexual experiences. Alain Corbin, Women for Hire (1990), 61

15 Poet Paul Verlaine remembers his first time: The smoke of the cigarettes of women and of the cigars of a few men staying late… created a heavy atmosphere through which I nonetheless discerned a beauty… who seemed to me to be presentable and passable, though in reality she was probably neither. But I was at the age of illusions…

16 Regulating Prostitution Prostitutes required to register, carry card, undergo physical examinations Police des moeurs (bureau of morality) granted licences to brothels or maisons de tolérance (brothels) Prostitution legal and state regulated Punishments for those women who didnt comply

17 Prostitutes as symbols of dangerous female sexuality Symbolized laziness, agitation (frequently changing addresses and lovers), excess, and disorder Threat of prostitutes becoming lesbians – a threat to social order Views expressed in Parent-Duchâtelets De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris (1838)

18 Manets Olympia (1865)

19 Toulouse-Lautrec, In the Salon at the Rue des Moulins, 1894

20 Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin (1796-1864)

21 Until now coquettishness, frivolity, fickleness, beauty and gracefulness have given rise only to guile, trickery, hypocrisy, adultery etc., because society has not been able to regulate, or satisfy, or use [these] human qualities. They have therefore become sources of disorder, instead of being as they should be, sources of joy and happiness. Enfantin, quoted in Goldberg Moses, French Feminism (1984), p. 47

22 Claire Démar on the importance of sex before marriage: It happens often that, on the threshold of the bedroom, a devouring flame dies. For more than one great passion, the perfumed bed sheets have become a death shroud; perhaps more than one women who will read these lines, came to the marriage-bed throbbing with feeling and desire only to get up in the morning frigid and icy.

23 Greater sexual freedom from 1880s+? Increased recognition that womens sexual desires should be met within marriage Tolerance of gossip and sexual intrigue, as long as outward image of respectability was maintained Female adultery tolerated in certain circles e.g. Magdeleine Decori M. Plott, The Rules of the Game, French Historical Studies, (2002)

24 Bourgeois male sexualities Importance of the formerly aristocratic honour code Desperate to ensure that their wealth would be passed on to a healthy hier Led them to valorize genital, reproductive, and marital sexual behaviour over pathological and sterile kinds Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor, p.45

25 The ideal couple is that of the most female woman and the most virile man, when a dark, hairy, dry, hot and impetuous male finds the other sex delicate, moist, smooth and white, timid and modest…. [The woman] through [her] timidity [must] be ready to welcome, to absorb, out of need and a feeling of deficit, the overflow of the other in order to establish equality and reach fullness. J-J Virey, De la femme (1825)

26 The dangers of male sexual excess These exhausted men dress themselves in the skirts of an eunuch or in effeminate clothing... they tremble with fear at the very sight of weapons; they cannot think or act as men should do; they are the most scornful and vile beings in creation; their cowardice and their impotence obliges them to deal in falsehoods and duplicity. J.J. Virey, De la femme (1825)

27 Prevalent ideas on male sexuality Juste milieu - moderation in sex, as in all other things Male and female fundamentally different but interdependent Procreation within the family encouraged

28 The dangers of masturbation, according to the Livre sans titre (1830)

29 Some more medical views on sex: Contraception would lead to sexual excess and then on to individual and national decline Men needed to preserve seminal fluid to guarantee social order and national vitality Impotence an affront to male vigour and honour

30 Doctors on homosexuality Doctors pathologized homosexuality, in part because it did not include reproductive sex Medical experts viewed homosexuals as physically inferior to heterosexual men and morally perverted – incomplete men and failed women

31 The milieus in which we live are enervating; the air we breathe is charged with desires that stimulate our senses and create for us imperious needs that we neither want nor know how to struggle against. Pleasure is our only thought, enjoyment our supreme goal. Quoted in C Forth, The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood (2004), 118

32 Policing homosexuality Sodomy decriminalized during the Revolution (1791) Since then, homosexuality has never been illegal in France But continual police surveillance of same- sex activity throughout nineteenth century France

33 The supposed links between homosexuality and criminality It is from the pederasts that the most skilful and audacious criminals come… They practice indiscriminately swindling, theft, and murder; but blackmail is their favourite weapon. Gustave Macé, head of the Paris detective service from 1879, quoted in Jackson, Living in Arcadia, 21

34 Paris police force investigated 1,800 individuals for same sex activity between 1873 and 1879 Homosexuality legal so police used article 330 of the penal code against public indecency Two year (max) prison sentence 93% conviction rate in 1870s Paris Public indecency

35 The Palais Royal

36 How can it be that… in a city like Paris every evening among the strollers in the Galerie dOrléans [at the] Palais Royal, you let a troop… of young boys from eighteen to twenty, all in cap and smock… carry on a trade… that rejects all morals? These are male whores who sell themselves to the inhabitants of Sodom and do so publicly. How can you let this disgusting traffic go on every evening? Anonymous Parisian to Paris Prefect (1839), quoted in Sibalis, The Palias-Royal and the Homosexual Subculture of Nineteenth-Century France, Journal of Homosexuality 41 (2002), 122

37 Toulouse-Lautrec, The Bed, c.1892

38 Toulouse-Lautrec, Au Hanneton (1898)

39 Toulouse Lautrec, A la Souris (1897)



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