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This remarkable book traces the development of sexual knowledge and guidance in Britain over three centuries. An absorbing, shocking, and often moving narrative, it investigates how views on sexual activities, sexual disorders, sexual pleasures, and sexual proprieties evolved through the years. Roy Porter and Lesley Hall explore the moral, religious, scientific, medical, domestic, social, and cultural backgrounds of various periods in which sexual information was received. They assess, for example, the impact of literature on sex on the legal regulation of prostitution, the control of contagious diseases, gender relations in and out of marriage, social purity movements, and social hygiene concerns. They describe the emergence of evolutionist and laboratory discourses on sexuality, the origins of sexual surveys, debates about marriage and free love, and associated revelations of personal sexual experiences. Examining texts that range from Nicolas Venette's Mysteries of Conjugal Love Reveal'd, written near the close of the seventeenth century, to Marie Stopes's Married Love, a famous tract of the twentieth century, Porter and Hall show how these texts established and authorized sexual knowledge and sexual practices. They describe the authors of these texts, their careers, and the motives for involvement in medico-moral campaigns that were often thought unsavory and commonly led to criticism and censure. Challenging and overturning common assumptions and historiographical traditions--from hoary myths of the Victorians to the work of Michel Foucault--the book adds a great deal to our understanding of the origins of sexual mores and knowledge.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780300062212
ISBN-10: 0300062214
Format: Hardback
(242mm x 163mm x 39mm)
Pages: 428
Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publish Date: 10-Jan-1995
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Roy Porter

Roy Porter is professor in the social history of medicine and Lesley Hall is senior assistant archivist, Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London. Porter has written or contributed to over fifty books and is a regular reviewer and broadcaster in England. Hall is the author of Hidden Anxieties: Male Sexuality, 1900-1950.

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