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By George, I think They Did It: Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain

Updated: Aug 28, 2023


I have recently watched the new Netflix' Bridgerton (2020 -). Watched? Yes, devoured would be more accurate. Upon the end of the marathon, I had a few burning questions regarding some of the scenes in this show, especially those concerning the sex aspect. Of course, I did not expect complete historical accuracy, yet I still wanted to know what would have been possible in the Regency era, and what must have been an invention by the filmmakers. So, basically, the usual questions one has after viewing a period drama. To be honest, I'd already seen the entire box-set of Harlots (2017-2019), so I was finally ready to be surprised by the real Georgian history...


For answers I turned to this volume: Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain by Mike Rendell (published by Pen & Sword Books) and I must say, upon finishing it, my curiosity was fully sated. The book disclosed much about the sexual relations between the opposite sexes, between the same sexes, as well as the attitudes towards all sorts of variations, what today we would call ‘spicing it up’. Link to book here.


To my surprise, Coitus Interruptus, which Bridgerton used to an extent of a plot device, is also mentioned, and surprisingly, (spoiler alert!) it would have indeed been popular among married couples in Georgian Britain. Though unlike their 21-st century counterparts, who have access to reproduction education at their fingertips, the Georgian men and women had little understanding of what actually made a baby.


The narrative is peppered with instances of prostitution: voluntary and involuntary, which makes one sympathetic for the state welfare we have today. 'Secret Diary of a Georgian London Call Girl' indeed...

The tome also informs the reader about the laws in relation to all of the above - and the various Acts put through by Parliament. To me, the most memorable one was The Malicious Shooting and Stabbing Act of 1803, which changed the way the law dealt with abortions.

All in all, this book seemed like a great source of knowledge for all things sex and society related in Georgian Britain. It makes the reader appreciate how far some issues have progressed, how some matters and viewpoints have not changed, and how much work there is yet to be done.


P.S. If you haven't watched Bridgerton or Harlots (2017-2019) - you're missing out... here are the trailers for both:


1. Bridgerton, the series that take place in 1813, and show the top echelons of society. Available on Netflix.



2. Harlots, based on Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies non-fiction volume by historian Hallie Rubenhold. Harris's List is mentioned throughout Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain. This list was the city's guidebook to the available ladies of the night, which included where to find them and what they 'specialised' in... What is more surprising, is that London was not the only city in Britain to have had such a list... Season 1 of Harlots is set in 1763. Available on StarzPlay.



Inaccuracies in the Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain book: the author keeps stating that George IV died in 1827, whereas it was actually 1830.

He also referred to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as the play that featured the characters Perdita and Florizel, when in fact it’s The Winter’s Tale.




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