Obsession with Flagellation in Victorian England

Image from *A Bit O’Muslin* Blogspot

Though the very act of sexual violence is disturbing, to say the least, I find the obsession with flagellation in published fictional/non-fictional works as well as letters to editors fascinating.  The very fact that Victorians were discussing issues on pornographic/obscene material not only gives way for people today to study the cultural history of the nineteenth-century but also suggests that Victorians were widely obsessed with sex and flagellation (whether they agreed with flagellation or opposed it).  I see the discussion around these pornographic materials (fictional or not) as a means for protestors to oppose the publication and distribution of these “revolting” works, but simultaneously I feel like they reinforce the idea that there are “dirty-minded” Victorians and, not to mention, helped garner more attention towards pornography and issues of flagellation.  In that way, they fueled the attention towards these issues by creating an “uproar” of opposition which draws in either a crowd who supports their cause or sparking a long, drawn-out, and seemingly never-ending debate. 

Another intriguing idea is how publishers took advantage and exploited these debates; as did writers who published anonymously and imitated the style of writing from personal diaries and narratives.  Furthermore, the modes of publication is particularly intriguing in that publishers (which I see as “mediators”) not only published different forms of writing pertaining to the topic of sex and flagellation–as pointed out in “Discipline and Punishment in the Fashion Magazine” from Sharon Marcus’ Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England– but some purposefully published in Paris and distributed to London.  I would suggest by publishing in Paris, the publishers did more than merely protect themselves from the Obscenity Act but that they linked Paris decadence and obscenity to London while creating transnational literary works and thereby helps in tracing cultural and publication history of the nineteenth-century.

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3 thoughts on “Obsession with Flagellation in Victorian England”

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree; however, given the general conception that Victorians were a bunch of repressed individuals, I think approaching flagellation through historical-cultural context is very important as it not only undermines this general conception, but also reveals the underbelly of Victorian-London culture. This blog post, though, is merely a start for more analysis and historical thinking.

      1. Well, I know very little about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the interest in it was due to a fear of receiving an STD. Schumann got a lethal does of that on his first “encounter.”

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