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Victorian erotica is a genre of sexual art and literature which emerged in the Victorian era of 19th-century Britain. Victorian erotica emerged as a product of a Victorian sexual culture. Sex was a main social topic, with progressive and enlightened thought pushing for sexual restriction and repression. Sexual pleasure and desire beyond heterosexual marriage was labelled as deviant, considered to be sinful and sinister. Such deviant forms included masturbation, homosexuality, prostitution and pornography.
Sex was simultaneously repressed and proliferated. Sex was popular in entertainment, with much of Victorian theatre, art and literature including and expressing sexual and sensual themes. Historian Peter Webb writes that there are two of Victorian erotica: on the one hand the expressive writings of Oscar Wilde and Swinburneand on the other hand the "coldly calculated indulgence in male fantasy" such as is found in The Memoirs of Dolly Mortonwhere women are depicted merely as sex objects.
Art and literature provided Victorians with an avenue to express transgressive and repressed sexual desire. Sex was often illustrated by stories of deviance and scandal. Yet there are also explicitly sexual works, as compiled in Henry Spencer Ashbee 's Forbidden Books of the Victoriansin which the books describe sex in much erotic detail. Additional Victorian artists and authors include Aubrey Beardsley the illustrator of Wilde's Salomeand, of course, many literary and artistic works by "Anonymous. A main component of Victorian erotica was the female sexual object.
Women were increasingly being defined in terms of femininity, subordination, and the object of sexual desire. On the stage, in art, or in literature, women were inscribed with sexuality, positioned as the sexual object.
Erotic stimulation was usually implied or suggested. The fallen woman was a key stereotype for Victorian erotica. The fallen woman was characterised in opposition to the Victorian moral standard for women. Social anxieties over the sexuality and independence of women produced the image of the fallen woman. Art and literature allowed the expression of a homosexual identity. The Sins of the Cities of the Plain; or, The Recollections of a Mary-Annis an explicitly homosexual novel written by an anonymous author in The Shaftesbury memorial by Alfred Gilbert caused moral scandal and outrage, as the sculpture was deemed subversive of heterosexual standards of the time.
Michael Field was a poet, who it is suggested developed a language of love between women. School Life in Paris This is a book made from a compilation of letters from a young British girl, who boarding at a finishing school in Paris, sent letters to her cousin in England. In the Victorian period, pornography on the market boomed, and was produced in abundance. Victorian pornography often depicted the rape, abduction, and subordination of women. Obscene Publications Act — There was Victorian legislation against pornography, but it was against its distribution and sale, rather than its possession.
Henry Spencer Ashbee is the first bibliographer of pornographic literature. Eighteenth-Century Studies. ISSN JSTOR History: Reviews of New Books. PMC October Theatre Journal. In Bold, Alan 19th century sex stories. The Sexual Dimension in Literature.
ISBN Sex and death in Victorian literature. Indiana University Press.
OCLC Sex scandal : the private parts of Victorian fiction. Duke University Press. American Scholar : — Romantic Friendship in Victorian Literature. The American Journal of Semiotics. The Art Bulletin. Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, ". Victorian Studies. The Victorian nude : sexuality, morality, and art. Manchester University Press. After the Pre-Raphaelites: art and aestheticism in Victorian England. Forbidden books of the Victorians Henry Spencer Ashbee's bibliographies of erotica.
Odyssey Press. Textual Practice. ISSN X. Literature Compass. : Erotica Victorian culture. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes file. Download as PDF Printable version.
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