Sunday, November 1, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain by Mike Rendell

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.


Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain
by Mike Rendell is a look at sex, the sex trade, and attitudes about sex in the 1700s in Britain. It starts off with presenting the prevalence of prostitution, particularly in London, and defines the strata of prostitutes from the lowliest “bunters” and “bulk mongers” to the highest and priciest courtesans. Mini-biographies of the best known courtesans are given.  There is also a nod to the rampant gonorrhea and syphilis during these times. The book provides anecdotes to show how people had sex (primarily how the rich and titled did), how they dealt with unwanted pregnancy and with infertility, and how women and the poor were exploited. There are chapters on homosexuality, flagellation, and the emergence of art and literature focused on sex.

In short, the book delivers on what the title indicates it will be about. There are interesting facts and anecdotes in the text. But, although it was organized into chapters, it read as a string of material that didn’t hold together particularly well. There was not enough historical context to explain why any of it was particular to Georgian Britain. There was no thoughtful analysis of the information. In the end, I felt as though I had just read a long list.