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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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The Language of Insult

The Language of Insult

Chapter:
(p.59) 3 The Language of Insult
Source:
Domestic Dangers
Author(s):

Laura Gowing

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207634.003.0003

The definition of whores and bawds was integral to the rich language in which early modern women and men in London insulted each other on the streets, in shops, and in the houses of the city and its environs. In the language of insult, women and men described sexual misconduct, characterizing it through a central picture of the whore, delineating the emotional, material, and sexual dislocations that whoredom was supposed to effect, and calling for whores to be named and punished. Sexual insult was a matter for the church courts because it alleged spiritual sins: fornication, adultery, bawdry, and bastardy. Women's defamation litigation tended to follow a different course to men's. The broad outline and the detail of sexual insult both reflected and constructed a set of specific understandings of the different consequences, implications, and significance of sex and honour for women and for men. From the range of sources available to them, men and women produced a detailed and apparently rigid understanding of sexual honour, the system in which honesty had meaning.

Keywords:   London, sexual insult, whores, litigation, church courts, sex, honour, defamation, adultery

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