Prostitutes and Rape: Crime and the Body
.18 century had a sexual revolution in England where heterosexual sex was viewed as the norm while
all other types of sexual activity was not. Had a lot to do with the rise of a single-sex body and
stigmatization of deviance (homosexuality,etc.)
Thomas Laquer and the single-sex body
Single-sex body: gradient between male and female, women had hidden male genitalia, built on
Aristotle and the humoural body. This was the model that was thought of in the middle ages. Believed
the female body had male genitals inside the woman.
Early modern transition period: women’s bodies seen as threatening as religious iconography changes.
Female body posed a threat (reproduction, virginity). It was believed that women became ill when they
didn’t have enough sex which caused parents to marry their daughters off fast (green sickness).
18 century: emergence of separate sexes, women no longer partially male, women configured as the
weaker, passive sex. There became a dual identification of bodies into two genders. Females lost the
idea that they can be aggressive or sexual because they no longer were partly male. Women were now
passively sexual and unsexual in that sense contrasting males.
The Stigmatization of Deviance
.early modern period: sexual acts were lumped together, no real differentiation between ‘normal’ and
.18 century: heterosexual penetrative sex became the norm, spectrum of permissible sexual activity
widened. Deviant sexuality was more policed with crackdowns on homosexuals such as homosexual
brothels called molly houses (gay men called mollys or macaronis – people who cared too much for their
appearance). Any sexual behaviour that didn’t include penetration was either deviant or not sex at all.
Difficulty explaining what constitutes rape or sex.
Legal and social concepts of rape
-few prosecutions for rape in the early modern period because: 1. The punishment was the death
penalty 2. Victims lacked the money to finance a felony charge 3. Rape of single women wasn’t taken
seriously because it wasn’t a crime against property (Women were considered property before the 18 th
century to their husbands or fathers, now this was a crime against the body) 4. Charges were often
withdrawn and cases were settled privately
-guilty verdicts for rape were difficult to establish because it was
1. hard to prove that rape had occurred (man had to ejaculate for it to be considered rape) 2. Hard to
prove that a woman hadn’t consented (display evidence that she struggled against her attacker) 3. Hard
to establish a woman’s character (had to establish good character which was hard since people could
poke holes in it)
-203 rape prosecutions at the old bailey from 1730-1800 with only 23 convictions (most convictions
were children because consent wasn’t a factor). Little legal protection from assault unless the victim was a child or an upper class woman raped by a lower class man. Huge number of child rape cases that never
made it to court as the child never said anything or the parents wanted to protect their honour.
Venereal disease and victims of rape
.belief that if a man with venereal disease had sex with a child that he would be cured of his venereal
disease. This increased the vulnerability of young girls to rape. In 1764 the lock hospital (London
venereal disease hospital) paid the expenses for Edmund thirkell to be prosecuted for the rape of 5 year
old mary amerlia halfpenny. The child had to be a virgin in order for the belief that they would cure vd,
the virginity of the accused was the crucial part of most trials as they had to prove that they were a
Rape in the 19 century
.level of prosecutions for assault began to rise in the 1820s because 1. The justice system was becoming
more formalized (prisoner’s counsel act of 1836). 2. The death penalty for rape was abolished in 1841
and in 1845 the mandatory sentence of transportation was removed. 3. The public climate was changing
and legal conceptions of sexual violence were shifting. A) definition of rape was changing (no longer had
to prove there was semen) b) shift towards consent as the operative factor (didn’t need to prove she
struggled but could focus on consent). Moved the transition forward as a crime against property to a
crime against the body, imposed on the victim a need for consent proving her own character instead.
Before 1840 the forced transportation of rapists was enforced but after 1840 it was switched to
imprisonment. Since the death penalty was taken away people were less likely to set a perpertrator free
because they didn’t want to send him to death.
Focus on character
.emphasis on consent led to focus on woman’s character. Previous sexual activity taken as evidence of
consent. Left women with little to defend themselves, since they were supposed to be too ignorant or
modest to discuss sex in public. However emphasis on character could also impact the male
perpertrator. Victorian society was increasingly intolerant of male sexual liencese (The associate
institute for improving the laws for the protection of women, est 1843 by William shaen). Middle class
values of restraint and purity extended down the social scale by the mid-19 century. By the end of the
19 century protection of all women from rape was viewed as fundamental to civilized s