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Acts of DesireWomen and Sex on Stage 1800-1930$
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Sos Eltis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691357

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.001.0001

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Sex Problems and Nature's Law

Sex Problems and Nature's Law

Chapter:
(p.114) 4 Sex Problems and Nature's Law
Source:
Acts of Desire
Author(s):

Sos Eltis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.003.0005

This chapter examines the fin de siècle emergence of the English sex-problem play, directly addressing issues of sexual morality and in particular the sexual double standard. The impact of changes in marriage law, debates on the regulation of prostitution, and the campaign for women's rights can be seen in a number of late nineteenth-century melodramas, and in early problem plays. It was, however, the catalytic effect of Ibsen's drama which rendered traditional sentimental dramas old fashioned, and helped to secure licences and audiences for society plays by A. W. Pinero, Sidney Grundy, and Henry Arthur Jones, which centred on issues of female sexual morality and judgement. The majority of these plays were explicitly anti-feminist, offering conventional warnings about female vulnerability and sexual frailty. But self-consciously theatrical plays by Wilde and generically mixed plays by H. A. Jones offered more unstable and multiple meanings to puzzled audiences

Keywords:   feminism, sex-problem play, pinero, wilde, henry arthur jones, sexual double-standard, new woman, ibsen, theatrical genre, fallen woman

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