Puritans and Sex

Bernard Capp

in England's Culture Wars

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199641789
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191744228 | DOI:
Puritans and Sex

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Puritan reformers had long called for the strict punishment of sexual immorality, but many cotemporaries and modern scholars have dismissed the notorious 1650 Adultery Act as wholly ineffective. This chapter surveys prosecutions under the act, both in London and the provinces, and examines how magistrates determined to impose harsh punishments turned to other mechanisms when they found the act unsatisfactory. The chapter assesses popular attitudes in this new climate, from resentment and fear to evidence of public support for stern moral values and of neighbours’ readiness to report sexual offenders. It surveys adultery, fornication, illegitimacy, rape, sodomy, incest, and prostitution. It also examines the consequences of resentment and confusion over the marriage law of 1653, which prohibited church weddings.

Keywords: puritans; sex; adultery; London; marriage; immorality

Chapter.  10554 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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