Synopses & Reviews
This remarkable study presents the first detailed and scholarly analysis of the creation of sexual knowledge in Britain. Surveying the period between the mid-seventeenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, it examines the major texts which established and authorised sexual knowledge and sexual practices. Porter and Hall then explore the various kinds of backgroundssexual, moral, religious, scientific, medical, domestic, social and cultural - without which these texts are unintelligible. And they examine their authors (some famous, some obscure, some anonymous), their careers, and the motives for involvement in medico-moral campaigns that were often thought unsavoury and commonly led to criticism and censure. The Facts of Life also assesses the wider impact of the publication of sexual knowledge and especially of sex advice literature, and explores the interplay between expertise, therapy, social mores and behaviour. Chapters on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries discuss prostitution, contagious diseases and gender relations, and consider debates on sexual issues and associated revelations of personal experience.
This remarkable book traces the development of sexual knowledge and guidance in Britain over three centuries. An absorbing, shocking, and often moving narrative, it investigates how views on sexual activities, sexual disorders, sexual pleasures, and sexual proprieties evolved through the years.
Roy Porter and Lesley Hall explore the moral, religious, scientific, medical, domestic, social, and cultural backgrounds of various periods in which sexual information was received. They assess, for example, the impact of literature on sex on the legal regulation of prostitution, the control of contagious diseases, gender relations in and out of marriage, social purity movements, and social hygiene concerns. They describe the emergence of evolutionist and laboratory discourses on sexuality, the origins of sexual surveys, debates about marriage and free love, and associated revelations of personal sexual experiences.
Examining texts that range from Nicolas Venette's Mysteries of Conjugal Love Reveal'd, written near the close of the seventeenth century, to Marie Stopes's Married Love, a famous tract of the twentieth century, Porter and Hall show how these texts established and authorized sexual knowledge and sexual practices. They describe the authors of these texts, their careers, and the motives for involvement in medico-moral campaigns that were often thought unsavory and commonly led to criticism and censure.
Challenging and overturning common assumptions and historiographical traditions--from hoary myths of the Victorians to the work of Michel Foucault--the book adds a great deal to our understanding of the origins of sexual mores and knowledge.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -397) and index.