chapter  1
‘The man of penetration and the girl of capacity’
Negotiating power in erotic culture
ByJenny Skipp
Pages 18

This chapter investigates erotic culture through an examination of obscene, bawdy and sexually descriptive texts produced during this time. It intends to establish that much of the basis for nineteenth-century interaction with and understanding of erotic tropes was formulated during the eighteenth century. The chapter argues that erotic literature was produced and potentially consumed by a socially varied audience. It demonstrates that, regardless of the form and irrespective of the intended audience, the message' contained within the texts was often consistent: male sexuality should dominate the female and female sexuality was threatening. The restriction of women's access to the sexual elements of popular culture and concomitant cultural representation of them as sober, chaste, diligent and faithful produced a wave of fantasies about their hidden longings and an entrenchment of ideas about publicly sexual women. The heterosexual' imperative was consolidated over time, and access to masculinity was formulated through an appreciation and replication of sexually assertive behaviour and attitudes.