chapter
14 Pages

Introduction

This chapter discusses the ways in which female sexuality were constructed as problematic and disruptive to the social order, and considers how European states attempted to control women who displayed their sexuality in inappropriate ways. It goes on to examine feminist challenges to the double-standard and the formulation of a new kind of autonomous female sexuality by feminists and sex reformers. The story of women's sexuality in the nineteenth century is the story of women reclaiming their bodies for themselves. From sex being something assigned to women by others, and given meaning by others, sex became something that women owned. The esoteric discussions about sex that took place in the rooms of middle-class intellectuals had little direct impact upon the majority of working women who, right up until the First World War, were given little in the way of practical information or choices as to how to accommodate childbirth, child care, paid and unpaid work.