Our Others, Our Selves?
The Victorians and their sexuality exert a hypnotic fascination over historians. In spite of historical revisionism, ‘Victorian’ remains a well-understood term for repressive attitudes, floating free from the chronological and geographical limits of Victoria’s actual reign. There have been distinctive shifts in the representation of Victorian sexuality. Initially, Victorianism represented the regime against which reformers were struggling. During the Sexual Revolution studies suggested seething lustful undercurrents beneath the respectable exteriors, and every few years a book appears which purports to reveal that the Victorians were just like ourselves in their enjoyment of sex. Are the Victorians a Rorschach test for changing contemporary ideas about sex and society, or does each generation create the Victorians it needs? The Victorians were numerous, and diverse, enough to provide a kaleidoscope of innumerable possibilities of sexual belief and behaviour and a well of contradictory stories.
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