Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism

"Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism ," by Deborah Lutz
Fab new book all about the seedier side of 19th century London. Prostitution was legal during the Victorian period and many of the main cities were full of brothels of all different kinds. Straight and gay sex with S&M was all catered for. According to Lutz, 50 percent of the pornography of the time was flagellation pornography. The author explores the reasons why masochistic eroticism was so prevalent. Many of the heroes of the time such as explorer Richard Burton, Pre-Raphaelite painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Simeon Solomon, poet Christina Rossetti and poet Algernon Charles Swinburne were breaking taboos and challenging sexual mores both through their work and, sometimes, their personal exploits. For example Swinburne was a confirmed atheist and felt very angry about restraining of sexual expression by Christianity. In one poem, he compared the Virgin Mary to a kind of sadistic sexual dominatrix. The painter Rossetti was raised in a high church household but became a rebel and bohemian. His Christian belief began to bleed into eroticism and linked spirituality to sexuality. He believed there were ways to celebrate the sensual joys of the earth in a spiritual way. As a young painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted half naked beautiful women, but as he got older his paintings became more masculinized. The author attempts to explain why the Victorians were so preoccupied with kinky sex and reasons middle class artisans befriended prostitutes. A must read book.

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