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Sodomy and prostitution had similar public status in eighteenth-century London, and are vices that have likely existed since the humans began living in collective societies. Social and legal perceptions of these two acts, or lifestyles, have varied greatly through time and culture. The legal and social perceptions of sodomy and prostitution in eighteenth-century London were studied extensively by Randolph Trumbach of Baruch College, City University of New York and written about in his article “Sex, Gender, and Sexual Identity in Modern Culture: Male Sodomy and Female Prostitution in Enlightenment London.” Enlightenment London was a crucial time in social development because the ideas of marriage, sex, gender, and identity were changing. Trumbach’s thesis is that “though it may not seem so at first, it is very likely that this fear of male passivity and the new sodomitical role that it had produced in the early Enlightenment was also a consequence of the anxieties induced by the new ideal of closer, intimate, more nearly equal relations with women” (Trumbach, 106).The definition of marriage was changing in London during the eighteenth-century. Marriage was no longer just a relationship for procreation and family stability. Marriage was now expected to be relationships of intimacy and love, which put men and women on closer sexual ground. This affected male sexual identity because males felt as though they needed a sexual outlet where they were not required to be intimate, which led to outlets such as prostitution or sodomy. But as sex and gender perceptions were changing, prostitution and sodomy played key roles in the shaping of the male gender identity.Before 1750, men, especially those in aristocratic positions, were kn…

…ely interested in women.This relates back to Trumbach’s thesis that the fear of sexual passivity and the gender status of sodomite stemmed as a consequence of the more intimate, closer, and nearly equal relations with women. With intimacy being a modern requirement for marriages in eighteenth-century London, males feared that they would become sexually passive with only one partner, and they feared this because sexual passivity was part of the new gender status of sodomite definition. I find Trumbach’s thesis to be persuasive but too simple to be applied to all men, and to explain the severe change in London’s culture in the eighteenth-century. There were many other opinions changing during this Enlightenment time period, and those may have also played a role in the drastic change in the views of gender, sex, marriage, and identity in eighteenth- century London.

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