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  • Writer's pictureHeather Moll

Book Review: Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain

Did the people in Georgian Britain live up to their stereotypes when it came to sexual behavior? Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain attempts to answer that.

December 11, 2020 by Pen and Sword History by Mike Rendell.


This is a highly readable and quick-paced overview of the mores and values of Georgian England as they relate to sexuality. Focusing on the habits, medical knowledge, and assumptions of the era, the main takeaway is the hypocrisy regarding male behavior versus female, and the wealthy versus the poor. Illegitimacy, prostitution, affairs, and STIs were commonplace and accepted occurrences.


The sense of privacy was not what it is today and things we would hide were conducted within public view and even circulated in newspapers. And the amount of prostitution and venereal disease would astound most readers.

I wish the chapter on contraception and abortion was more in depth. I felt that this women-centric aspect of Georgian sex and sexuality did not get the attention it deserved. I also wish homosexuality was investigated beyond its appearance in legal accounts.

This book does not use progressive language in describing trans people or sex workers. I wouldn’t expect contemporary accounts to use the proper language, but the author in 2020 should. Certain outdated terms might take readers by surprise. Some sections almost seem like bi erasure and transphobia, which I don’t think is the author’s intent, but it is a serious miss.


There were interesting anecdotes but it lacked a narrative arc in a historical context to tie everything together. However, it still gave good insight into the values of the Georgian age and how they intersected with sex and sexuality. Be prepared to face some disturbing realities.


Have you read this one? It was more book candy than serious enterprise, but there were still some good takeaways.

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