Victorian Values on Sex and Sexuality

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James Joyce sets A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Victoria Age. The Double Standard of Morality by Josephine Butler and Victorian Theories of Sex and Sexuality by Elizabeth Lee give us insight into ideas people had about sex and sexuality during the Victorian era. We see that sex was considered an unavoidable part of life. Sex was “man [and] woman's ultimate goal” (Lee). Victorians believed that “the essence of right and wrong [was.…] dependent on sex” (Lee). Meaning that how you were publicly known or not known for your sexual actions was how you were viewed as either good or bad. Sex was not just an activity that took place with a marriage partner; it was an event that was wide spread outside of marriage with prostitutes. To Victorians prostitution, and upper class men going to prostitutes, were seen as norms. The act was ok as long as it did not get major publicity from the public or the press. Even “within the church people overlook[ed] a man’s actions” yet disowned upper class women if suspicions were aroused. Victorian men believed lower class women were to be “set aside […for…] the irregularities of the excusable man” (Butler). It was thought that “Men only concerned themselves with fertilization [so] they could also spend energies in other arenas” (Lee) and that women’s roles were chiefly that of child bearing. At the end of the day women were not expected to have “energy left for other pursuits” (Lee). Men “interpret the ignorance and silence of women as indulgent acquiescence and support” (Butler) of their actions. The ideas of normal family life, living another life, and the ideals of the bible vs. the beliefs and actions of the church displayed a double life ... ... middle of paper ... ...shame” will be never ending until he dies and goes to hell as a result of not being “good” (Joyce 109). Stephen does not believe his woman has turned him into a man of greatness and therefore does not live like it. Victorians believed that it was possible, and not just possible but expected that a man keep his thoughts pure toward upper class women at all times. When Stephen sees a woman on the beach he sees her “mortal beauty” and with face a “flame[d]” runs away because he suddenly imagines “fall[ing…. and] creat[ing] life out of life.” Stephen is and will always be a man and though he can never be this person he is trying to be he still believes the Victorian idea that you can. Works Sited Page Butler, Josephine: The Double Standard of Morality Joyce, James: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Lee, Elizabeth: Victorian Theories of Sex and Sexuality
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