The Making of Victorian Sexuality

Michael Mason, Author
Michael Mason, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (360p) ISBN 978-0-19-812247-0
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-19-285312-7
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In a densely written and heavily footnoted treatise, Mason, a lecturer at University College, London, argues that Victorian attitudes toward sexuality were more progressive than previously thought. The view of Queen Victoria's reign (1831-1901) as a period defined by sexual prudery was, according to Mason, an arbitrary interpretation imposed erroneously by modern social theorists. Drawing on census figures, 18th-century medical texts and the writings of many social analysts of the era, including William Godwin and Edward Carpenter, Mason details a sexual culture of evolving progressive attitudes. Victorian physicians, he shows, were knowledgeable about female sexuality and encouraged women's orgasms, believing that repression led to disease. By the 1860s, birth-control devices were used by the English middle and upper classes. The depth of research and level of analysis presented here will be of great interest to scholars. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
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