It's a mistake to equate the presence of prostitution and a small amount of pornography to a general acceptance of sexuality. While the upper classes did indeed enjoy a wide range of vices, the reality is that the Victorian period was one of extreme sexual repression. For example, in Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the author has to allude very obliquely to Tess's seduction, comparing coitus with her acceptance of a proffered strawberry, "and half willing, half reluctantly, she took it in." Public displays of flesh were frowned upon even as the gentry gawped at nudes in private collections or safely placed within the acceptable bounds of a Titian displayed for edification in the National Gallery (from which the common classes were naturally excluded, though not officially, of course). One need only read the historical records, the newspapers, the periodicals, and the novels of the time to see how firmly sexuality was off the table. Henry James specialized in writing entire novels that inferred it by its absence (his "figure in the carpet" approach to difficult topics). In short, the Victorians really were prudes even though the upper classes knew it was all the most terrible tosh.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.