Women and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Ireland
McLoughlin, Dympna (1994) Women and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Ireland. Irish Journal of Psychology, 15 (2-3). pp. 266-275. ISSN 0303-3910
As in Europe generally, there was a spectacular range of sexual relationships in 19th century Ireland, thus challenging the stereotype of a country of exceptional chastity and prudery. Economic factors played a pivotal role in Irish women’s sexual expression. Women of property had to be very circumspect in their behaviour. Women of different classes and circumstances could behave differently in entering short- or long-term liaisons, with men of their own or indeed higher social class. These women essentially drew up their own sexual contracts. However, by the late 19th century, there was less and less tolerance of sexual diversity and of women initiating their own destiny. This period (1880s +) witnessed the triumph of respectability. Henceforth, there was only one acceptable life path for normal women – marriage and motherhood – and a diminishing tolerance for any type of sexual diversity.
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