chapter  11
23 Pages

Parasexuality and Glamour The Victorian Barmaid as Cultural Prototype

Sexuality, we are now told, plausibly enough, is everywhere. 1 Yet recent scholarship, for all its advances, has done little to register or interpret this ubiquity. The history of sexuality which sees the nineteenth century as the crucial era in creating its modern sensibility has concentrated on certain areas: the submerged histories of "deviant" groups; the ideology of written texts; controversies over regulation; and individual cases of that remarkable phenomenon, closet heterosexuality.2 These emphases on the wilder and more esoteric reaches of sexuality reinforce the construct of separate terrains by focusing on the (unacceptable) public face and the (secretive) private face in civil society. What is missing is an illumination of the "middle" ground of sexuality, not as another exclusive territory, but as an extensive ensemble of sites, practices and occasions that mediate across the frontiers of the putative public/private divide.3 Arguably it is herein such everyday settings as the pub, the expanding apparatus of the service industries, and a commercialised popular culture-that capitalism and its patriarchal managers construct a new form of open yet licit sexuality that I propose to term parasexuality, a form whose visual code is known to us as the familiar but largely unexamined phenomenon of glamour.