Friday, 23 October 2009
THOUGHTS ON VICTORIAN PORNOGRAPHY
After posting the stuff about Aubrey Beardsley’s pornographic drawings, last weekend, I got to thinking about the Victorians, and what a funny lot they were. Their opposed attitudes to children, are glaringly obvious to us, in the 21st century. But apart from a handful of social reformers, the polar opposites seem to have passed them by. Victorian Art and Literature, portray dear, pretty, little innocents, gathered around Mama and Papa’s knee; not seeing the stifled, starving little nobodies, working the coal mines, or sweeping chimneys.
If we’re looking at polar opposites, it’s not too huge a leap to look at Victorian ideals of family life and domesticity, compared with the commercialisation of subversive pornography, who’s sole purpose was the encouragement of illicit sexual arousal. The irony has a clarity that cannot be missed. Fidelity and chastity, and their polar opposite; debauchery and depravity.
So was this abundance of pornography, a result of a morally severe society? A golden age of repression? I don’t know. All I can say here is, that it was there, and it was available. Pornography, for men in Victorian England flourished. An official statistic of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, indicates that by 1834, 3 years before the start of Victoria’s reign, there were 57 porn shops on one street in London alone.
Perhaps too much sanitization isn’t healthy? Perhaps it brings out a secretive behaviour, which results in delighting in the obscene? Perhaps the more we get, the more we want, as in the extreme stuff that’s available on the Web? Perhaps I’ve picked up on a topic that is far more complex, than I can deal with here? A lot of questions; a lot of ‘perhaps’.
I think that there’s a delicious naughtiness about the porn the Victorians liked to look at. Yes, it’s sleazy; but to my mind there’s a sort of childlike innocence, a naivety that’s been lost, in the hard core pictures and photos that you can find anywhere on the Web today. It’s fun, it’s joyous; it’s a celebration of the forbidden.