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1 - Loss and Gain

The Victorian Sexual Body

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2023

Sarah Green
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

The concept of productive sexual continence was widespread in the nineteenth century. Writing on sexual health, medical and otherwise, agreed that excessive sexual activity involved a loss that threatened one’s health or wellbeing, though disagreed over how much was too much. And although suspicion of prolonged continence was common, many inferred that if sex lost something precious then continence must involve gain. The chapter begins with medicine, finding that productive continence was worked into thinking about the sexual body even as conceptions of sexuality and bodily function changed dramatically. It then looks at influential popular and intellectual genres to which a similar concept of continence was important: quack adverts, advice for young men, New Women literature, nineteenth-century Platonism, and the Oxford Movement. In this literature, unlike medical writing, the idea was often extended to women with the justification that sexual activity involved a loss of some spiritual or emotional quality rather than physical substance. It was a concept that would have been very difficult to avoid in the nineteenth century and would have been plausible to both men and women.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Loss and Gain
  • Sarah Green, University of Oxford
  • Book: Sexual Restraint and Aesthetic Experience in Victorian Literary Decadence
  • Online publication: 02 March 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108917490.002
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  • Loss and Gain
  • Sarah Green, University of Oxford
  • Book: Sexual Restraint and Aesthetic Experience in Victorian Literary Decadence
  • Online publication: 02 March 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108917490.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Loss and Gain
  • Sarah Green, University of Oxford
  • Book: Sexual Restraint and Aesthetic Experience in Victorian Literary Decadence
  • Online publication: 02 March 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108917490.002
Available formats
×