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  • Published: 3 Aug 2016
  • DOI: 10.4324/9781138641839-HOF8-1


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Fighting the Double Standard: Social Purity and Sexual Reform
  • Rethinking Marriage, Motherhood and Reproduction
  • Beyond Marital and Reproductive Heterosexuality
  • Conclusion
  • References

Sexuality (1880–1928)

Department of English, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was vibrant debate among feminists about the way in which male and female sexual behaviour was judged, understood and experienced. Feminist individuals and organisations were concerned with the question of how sexuality could be regulated or reformed in public and private. Female sexuality within and outside of marriage, motherhood and reproduction were topics of heightened interest. Such discussions were frequently linked to the figure of the New Woman, which began to emerge in the 1880s. Feminists also considered the political implications of non-reproductive forms of female sexuality. Scholarship has demonstrated the centrality of these negotiations of sexual behaviour and morality to early feminism. It has also drawn increasing attention to the complexity and contradictions inherent in feminist articulations of male and female sexuality in this historical period.