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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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Domestic Disorders: Adultery and Violence

Domestic Disorders: Adultery and Violence

(p.180) 6 Domestic Disorders: Adultery and Violence
Domestic Dangers

Laura Gowing

Oxford University Press

When marriages broke down, a whole edifice of economic transactions, sexual relations, and social roles came unstuck. The complaints women and men made to the court then reveal the great difference between what conjugality meant for men, and what it meant for women. The grounds on which marriages were formally ended were quite different for men and women, and they were founded on the understanding that men and women's sexual behaviour had incomparably different meanings. Men sued their wives for adultery; women sued their husbands for extreme cruelty. Effectively, only women could be penalized for extramarital sex and only men could be guilty of violence. The meanings of these two offences were central to the gender relations of marriage. Separation at the church courts offered legal and financial settlement of dispute. Lawsuits for separations and annulments were unusual both in London and throughout the country.

Keywords:   London, marriage, gender relations, adultery, violence, separation, annulments, conjugality, church courts

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