chapter  10
Of women, sex and folly: Opera under the Old Regime
WithGeorgia Cowart
Pages 16

Conservative writers in seventeenth-century France tended to agree that the morals of women were degenerating, though they disagreed as to whether the cause was the excessive strictness or the leniency of husbands. We would perhaps characterise the change more as a newly found sense of freedom and self-confidence that allowed women, however tentatively, to contest the double standard of the age. The new morality was seen in fashions that bared progressively more of the neck, shoulders, breasts, ankles and legs, revealing new erotic frontiers; in a relaxation of the taboo against female swearing and coarse language; in an epidemic of female gambling; and in scandalous reports of women’s over-indulgences in the sensual pleasures of food, drink, nicotine and sex. 1