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Itch, Clap, PoxVenereal Disease in the Eighteenth-Century Imagination$
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Noelle Gallagher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780300217056

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300217056.001.0001

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Officers and Gentlemen

Officers and Gentlemen

(p.14) Chapter 1 Officers and Gentlemen
Itch, Clap, Pox

Noelle Gallagher

Yale University Press

This chapter asks what imaginative representations of venereal disease say about Restoration and eighteenth-century attitudes toward gender and sexuality. It does so by considering the portrayal of venereal infections in men. It is no coincidence that many of the positive representations of the disease focus on male rather than female subjects. It has been suggested that the sexual double standard (whereby men were applauded for sexual promiscuity and women punished for it) played some role in shaping imaginative representations of the infection. However, so too did a culture that linked infection to manliness and male power. While historians working with medical texts from the early modern period have tended to conclude that the disease was seen as originating with, and spread by, women, many eighteenth-century literary and artistic works imagine venereal disease as male—as a condition predominantly experienced by men, caused by male sexual indiscretion, and passed on by philandering husbands to their faithful wives and innocent children.

Keywords:   venereal disease, Restoration, men, gender, sexuality, manliness, male power, sexual promiscuity, double standard

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