Ära och oro: Sexuella närmanden och föräktenskapliga relationer i 1700-talets Sverige
2009 (Swedish)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 75, no 1, 29-56 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The article discusses the notions of premarital sexual relations and unwanted sexual advances in Sweden in the late 1700s. It is based on an analysis of court material in rape cases and part of the debate on infanticide in the Swedish Parliament in 1786. Sexual initiative was associated with men in both the courts and the parliamentary debate. The practical definitions of illegal or illegitimate sexual advances were far from obvious. Great importance was attached to men's criminal intent, but it was not only coercion or use of violence that were important but also whether men's sexual advances were made with the intention of [eventually] marrying the women. These cases were difficult to judge, which is also seen in the various sentences given in similar cases, and in the discussions which took place in the higher courts. The courts often showed sympathy for the young women and found ways to punish men without sentencing them for rape, at the same time as they (sometimes against the law) acquitted the women. Both the legal material and the parliamentary debate show elements of uncertainty and concern about sexual morals, but also a considerable creativity in how to deal with sexual advances and problems that resulted from premarital relations. Immorality was described in parliament as a serious economical and social problem. It is not, however, obvious that the perceived growth of immorality in the late 1700s was due to the fact that more young unmarried men and women were involved in sexual relations before marriage. It may instead have had more to do with the breakdown of the traditional way of finding a spouse. As long as men took responsibility and married their partners if they became pregnant, and as long as women's honour could remain intact, -even if they had been subject to abuse or had intercourse connected to a marital promise - unmarried men and women could engage in sexual relations without seriously threatening the economic and social stability of the (local) community. But when young people no longer married and supported themselves when they had children, their premarital sexual relations became a significant threat. The solution to the problem was not obvious. Some advocated a return to tougher laws and stricter control, but already in the late 1700s a non-legal - but still strict and restrictive - moral regulation of sexuality developed, especially adapted to the emerging civil society.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 75, no 1, 29-56 p.
sexuality, eighteenth century, Sweden, premarital relations, immorality, rape, gender
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-139691ISI: 000267230600003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-139691DiVA: diva2:381853