Chapter

Cross-class cohabitation

Ginger S. Frost

in Living In Sin

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780719077364
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700723 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719077364.003.0008
Cross-class cohabitation

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This chapter concentrates on cross-class couples. Cross-class unions combined exploitative and advantageous elements for men and women, both defying and deferring to class and gender expectations. The participants in most cross-class cohabitation expected them to be temporary. These cohabitees broke into two groups: professional mistresses and poor women who preferred to marry, but chose to live with better-off men rather than lose them. Professional mistresses earned a good living. Mistresses had prosperity in the short run, but little security; thus, they had to be both romantic and businesslike, an uneasy combination. Both partners' families were unenthusiastic about the relationships in cross-class unions. Cross-class cohabitees defied two conventions of Victorian life: they had sexual relations outside of their social strata and without marriage. Cross-class couples resembled those who could not marry, since many of the men did not believe they could reconcile their families to marriages with unsuitable women.

Keywords: cross-class couples; cross-class unions; cross-class cohabitation; professional mistresses; marriage; Victorian life; sexual relations

Chapter.  9808 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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