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Domestic DangersWomen, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London$
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Laura Gowing

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207634

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207634.001.0001

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Gender, Household, and City

Gender, Household, and City

(p.1) I Gender, Household, and City
Domestic Dangers

Laura Gowing

Oxford University Press

There exists a moral framework in which it is acceptable for women to talk about their husbands' infidelity, but where husbands cannot admit to being cuckolded; in which ‘whore’ is a word of vague yet telling power against women, with no equivalent against men; and where marriage is perceived as a continuous economic and sexual exchange of goods thath women's unchastity disrupts. A closer examination of the language of sexual insult reveals its intimate relation to the organization of gender relations. Insults presumed not just an entirely gendered morality, but a whole order of sexual difference predicated, very largely, on that morality. Bodies and words, sex and marriage were all understood to be shaped by a gender difference that was most distinct on the subject of morality. Sexual insult belonged to a culture that perceived women's virtue, honour, and reputation through their sexuality, men's through a much wider range of values. The phrases of insult that women and men exchanged on the streets of London articulated the implications of gendered morality.

Keywords:   London, women, marriage, sexual insult, gender relations, gendered morality, sex, honour, reputation, virtue

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