In this 2008 article published in the journal Victorian Studies, Joanna Bourke examines some of the emotional rules, encoded in grammars of representation and framed within law and prescriptive marital advice literature, regarding the expression of male sexual aggressivity within the bedroom. Despite the general Victorian idealisation of marriage, many wives suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands, marital rape drawing particular attention from early feminists, psychologists, physicians, and evolutionary psychologists. In the 1870s, a belief that unrestrained sexual license was a symptom of degeneration led these commentators to consider marital rape particularly harmful to husbands. By the turn of the century, however, the focus of this harm had nominally shifted to women, who might become frigid if forced to submit to sex – a problem for wives but for husbands as well. As sexology and psychology gained greater influence, couples came to rely on the emotion-talk of commentators to negotiate mutually agreeable bedroom activity.
Sexual Violence, Marital Guidance, and Victorian Bodies: An Aesthesiology
Victorian Studies, 50.3 (Spring 2008), pp. 419-436.