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Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  105 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
At the height of the Victorian era, a daring group of artists and thinkers defied the reigning obsession with propriety, testing the boundaries of sexual decorum in their lives and in their work. Dante Gabriel Rossetti exhumed his dead wife to pry his only copy of a manuscript of his poems from her coffin. Legendary explorer Richard Burton wrote how-to manuals on sex posit ...more
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published February 14th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 5th 2011)
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(showing 1-30)
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Since I am going to be the first person to review this book, I’ll try to make it good for those of you who are considering picking it up. I ordered it on amazon on a splurge because I knew if I didn’t buy it I would never get to read it (my library is prudish in their selection). When it arrived, I must admit I was a little disappointed. It is a small, rather short book (283 pages of text), and being as interested as I am in the subject matter, I was in the mindset of “the longer the better.” Th ...more
Jan 02, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dandies
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
well-written, fun story about this one little clique of English libertines - Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Charles Swinburne, Richard Burton and a cast of supporting characters - who remind me that there have always been radicals.

From this Salon interview, some stuff I didn't know:

"Something like 50 percent of the pornography of the time was flagellation pornography. There are lots of different theories about that. One is that these gentlemen who went to private schools like Eton were whipped for puni
David Schwan
Nov 29, 2014 David Schwan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this because of its coverage of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood (PRB). This book goes into some of the history of the PRB and also talks about Sir Richard Burton and others who expanded the frontiers of sexuality in Victorian London. Many of the paintings of the PRB carried sexual undertones and this book explains the sexual themes depicted and describes the lives of those who made the paintings.

The sections dealing with Sir Richard Burton presented both he and his wife in a different li
Alexis Hall
Unlike the Dangerous Lover, this seems to be a more self-consciously accessible piece of writing (no Heidegger to be seen) which means it's kind of got the neither fish nor fowl thing of being neither usefully academic or quite as salacious as one would like for a book called 'Victorian Sex Rebels.'

In practice, Victorian Sex Rebels are always the same group of arty perverts: Swinburne, Burton, Rossetti, Wilde etc. And there's such a body of writing about them already, it all feels a little stale
Jan 24, 2012 Tori rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, project-sex
Interesting topic, terrible writing. This book read as if it were Lutz's barely-passing graduate thesis. It was riddled with difficult to read and strange grammar non-conventions. (My personal favorite, referring to all characters by all of their names: eg. to Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Rossetti, Gabriel, and Dante, often on the same page). The book is also missing a point. I'm still not really sure what she was trying to prove; it was more of an account of how several artists lived. She definite ...more
DeAnna Knippling
May 21, 2016 DeAnna Knippling rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Great! Granted, I'm a fan of the 19th-Century and Richard Francis Burton in particular, but this was a lovely read. If you are looking for erotica, this is NOT it. This covers the mid- to late-Victorian era, and the artists, writers, etc., who ended up affecting a lot of what we think about sexuality today. Recommended.
Elizabeth Lister
Jan 22, 2012 Elizabeth Lister rated it it was amazing
A truly fascinating read for someone who writes erotica in the twenty-first century :) It makes me want to read biographies of all the people she writes about: Swinburne, Danté Gabriel Rossetti and Sir Richard Francis Burton. Really interesting and enlightening stuff.
Apr 07, 2011 Deni rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Not quite finished yet. Just wanted to say that my favorite person in this book (so far) has to be William Morris:

"Making things among and with friends--with its sensuality, sympathy, and openhandedness--fueled Morris's growing socialism. Through handwork, he began to see that the vast majority of the people of England toiled at ugly and repetitive jobs that didn't utilize their best selves: their higher mind or their creative impulses. They made objects for others to use, and the objects themse
Karen Ireland-Phillips
One recalls Victorians as people who covered the legs of pianos to avoid sexual allusions.. But Deborah Lutz “. . . took a somewhat divergent stance, one attuned to this culture as not so much ‘more repressed’ than ours, but as profoundly different from it.”[return]I don’t believe she succeeded here. Yes, the Victorians were profoundly different to some extent. But the mores of the era reverberate today, in art, literature, religion and public attitude. [return]This isn’t a 101 book. The author ...more
Leslie Lindsay
Jan 17, 2015 Leslie Lindsay rated it really liked it
The manuscript I am working on now has a character who is very much into classical studies, and then he moves into a Victorian-era apartment building which may or may not have been used previously as a brothel. Let's just say I read PLEASURE BOUND as a way to "get in character" and do a little reasearch to round out some of the characterizations and "work" of this classic studies scholar.

But you probably don't care about all of that.

PLEASURE BOUND is a conglomeration of several different Victo
May 11, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it
A rather fascinating book, especially for those interested in the Pre-Raphaelites: reading about artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Holman Hunt and their experiments in living and art reminded me that these uprght Victorians were actually the first real hippies, advocates of free love, communal living, art for art's sake, and a sense that all objects can be both useful and beautiful. I also have a life-long crush on Sir Richard Francis Burton, who figures prominently in thi ...more
May 02, 2011 Julai rated it it was ok
This book didn't exactly smash open any new avenues of thought--while an interesting premise, it seems as though the author either stretched a very interesting essay or condensed a very boring thesis, creating this work focused on the Aesthetic and Cannibal groups of the Victorian era. Spoiler: Dudes who get bored with the current socially accepted mores tend to flirt with homosexuality. See: late 90s outbreaks of "bisexuality." The chapter on Christina Rosetti was enlightening, as was the infor ...more
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
WHEN “Walter,” the anonymous author of the encyclopedic and pornographic Victorian memoir My Secret Life, propositioned a passing woman with the offer of a shilling, he tells us that within “half a minute,” he had his “hand between her thighs.” Would she go further, he wondered? “‘Too glad,’ said she…. We went still further off, and found a vacant seat near an out of the way walk…. I sat down, and turning her back towards me, she pulled up her petticoats….”Read more...
Aug 28, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
An easily read book on Victorian era artists and poets who did not fall into the deep repression of various urges and defied the law and social mores. Among these artists were the Rossettis, Richard Burton (the explorer not Liz Taylor's twice husband), Oscar Wilde,Algernon Swinburne, and others. These individuals formed clubs, if you will,that tended toward Hedonism. They wrote, portrayed and collected pornographic works as well as translated the works of other cultures and times. This book high ...more
Jun 10, 2016 Lara rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtqa
Very enjoyable read by someone who both respects and likes these people and their work. I could wish for more focus on the women (seriously, why has Hollywood not made a sexy biopic about Robert and Isabel Burton? Or a wacky buddy-comedy about Christina Rossetti's unlikely friendship with Algernon Swinburne?), but it's not like they're forgotten in the text, merely overshadowed by their flamboyant artist/author friends and their hijinks. And you must admit, those Pre-Raphaelites and their circle ...more
Amy Wilks
Apr 18, 2011 Amy Wilks rated it liked it
Since this is a new book, and my post-op 'lying in' is over, I just didn't have time to read it all before it was due back to the library (no renewal because of many holds). I got through about two-thirds of it so far, and I look forward to reading the rest. The book deals with a fairly short period of Victorian history and a core group of "sex rebels", and I admit that I was expecting more variety. That said, I will finish this review once I get the book back. :)
Sep 08, 2016 Elsa rated it really liked it
Excellent book about the artists and writers of this era, as well as the foundations for later sexual revolutions. This isn't a book to "be read with one hand" *wink, wink* and isn't very sexy - so if you're looking for that - it's most likely not the right book for you. It was nice having a background in this time period as well knowing something about the history of pornography, erotic lit and "deviance." Added about 35 new books to my "To-read"/Amazon list.
Jul 25, 2011 Stacie rated it it was ok
In the 1860's, at the height of the Victorian Era, the world was changing at an unsettling pace. This book touches on the sexually themed writing and painting (including out-and-out pornography)of the latter half of the 19th century. Much of what they dipped their hands into feels strangely modern to us today. Much of this is about sexual expression. Not a light read. Definately a heavy read with deep thinking attached. OVER ALL, It was ok. Nothing I'd go back to.

Dec 02, 2011 Adele rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
I wanted to love this book, I really did. And I'm not sorry for reading it since much of the information contained therein is fascinating!

But -- and this is a big but -- Lutz's writing is impressively boring. It takes real talent to make information about porn boring, but she manages it. Despite the simple language used, it felt like reading the kind of textbook that you keep spacing out during to save your brain, but then have to go back and read again.
Megan Hogue
Jul 24, 2011 Megan Hogue rated it really liked it
I never really paid much attention to the "sexual awakening/revolution" of the Victorian era before, and I've got to say that this book really opened my eyes to its history and has intrigued me even more. I now have totally new things to look for on me rereads of Victorian poetry and novels.
Feb 04, 2013 Schnaucl marked it as unfinished
I thought this was going to be about society in general but it focused on a specific group of people. The author also portrays the Victorians as highly sexually repressed which wasn't really true.
Apr 06, 2016 Mira rated it liked it
At its best when telling interesting stories about interesting people, but not so much when it's trying to make larger points about them.
Jul 17, 2012 Ginger rated it liked it
Shelves: history, victorian
Despite the titillating subject matter, probably a little dry for the lay reader. Advance familiarity with Victorian history and literature also helps.
Janice rated it really liked it
Aug 10, 2014
Rick Edwards
Rick Edwards rated it really liked it
Nov 06, 2013
Vilma Novak
Vilma Novak rated it really liked it
Jun 06, 2013
Bryoniadioica rated it liked it
Mar 06, 2016
Charles Fey
Charles Fey rated it it was ok
Feb 14, 2015
St. Expeditus
St. Expeditus rated it liked it
Jul 22, 2011
Rob Same
Rob Same rated it really liked it
Mar 09, 2014
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  • Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century
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Deborah Lutz is the Thruston B. Morton Professor of English at the University of Louisville. The author of The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
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