Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

The English Don Juan was less graceful and less light-hearted. Taine gives an instructive description of him.

“Unyielding pride, the desire to subjugate others, the provocative love of battle, the need for ascendancy, these are his predominant features. Sensuality is but of secondary importance compared with these.”

We need to demonstrate our ascendancy only when the matter is in doubt, and the neurotic character of the doubt in this case is fairly obvious. If the eighteenths century gallant felt the need to fight a duel, it was for motives more subtle than those which animated the Renaissance bravo. And it is for this reason that the violence of the Age of Reason, though not so extreme as that of the Italian Renaissance, yet has a far more sadistic and gratuitous character. The gallant might believe himself to be actuated by reason, but the unconscious had him in its grip none the less surely for that.

The extent to which aggressive and destructive impulses were fused with sexual impulses— and often with homosexual impulses— during this period is displayed still more clearly by the extensive development of flagellation, both of passive and of active type. Otway had already introduced a masochistic scene in “Venice Preserv’d” as early as the Restoration, and in Shadwell’s “The Virtuoso“, a character demands to be flagellated, saying that he acquired the taste at Westminster School; the names of flagellatory headmasters are numerous: from Dr. Col of Eton at the beginning of the sixteenth century the line runs on through Dr. Busby of Westminster, Dr. Bowyer of Christ Hospital and Dr. Gill of St. Paul’s in the seventeenth, to Dr Drury and Vaughan of Harrow, and Drs. Keate, May and Edgeworth of Eton in the eighteenth and nineteenth. (13).

But this strain began in the eighteenth century to become so general that it became known on the Continent as “the English vice“; with the appearance of the first overtly pornographic work on the subject in 1718 (A Treatise on the Use Flogging) flogging became a passion. There were special brothels devoted to it, such as Mrs. Jenkins’. In 1767, we hear Elizabeth Brownrigg was executed for beating one of her apprentices, Mary Clifford, to death. Chace Pine, a roue of the period, devised a machine which would whip four persons at a time. It is curious that the wave of Puritanism which was to sweep over the country towards the end of the century made no difference whatever. Eros became taboo, but not Thanatos. Mrs. Colet’s flagellation brothel acquired such fame that George IV visited it, and the number of such brothels increased. Mrs. Berkley made £10,000 in eight year from her flagellatory brothel and was able to retire and live in comfort. (13).