Sex, porn and a discreet taste for the bizarre
Posted in: Censorship at 07/06/2007 06:15
With 6,000 brothels and 80,000 prostitutes in London, sex was an 1857 obsession. John Sutherland charts expression and repression of the dirty-book trade of the day
The article concludes:
It's my belief that "liberalisation" is a myth where pornography is concerned. There is repression and suppression (verging, in totalitarian regimes, on oppression) in every society and every age. It simply targets different areas. We are "Victorian", for example in matters of child pornography. We hate it and do our best to exterminate it. Quite right too. The Victorians, by contrast, had a blind spot where we have a raw nerve. As the journalist W. T. Stead demonstrated in 1885, you could buy a child virgin in London for as little as £5. Victorian pornography is replete with infantile devirgination. It was no crime, with the "age of consent" at 12.
However, Victorians would have been appalled at what is on display in our public phone boxes, or in the personal-ad pages of our newspapers. Modern London would seem like Sodom to them.
Pornography, whether in 1857 or 2007, is one of many useful litmus papers for determining what strange mixtures are at work culturally. The Victorians were not prudish, nor are we enlightened. Different times, different porn.