Realising a more than earthly paradise of love
in Sexual progressives
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This chapter analyses the sexual discourse and intimate life of Patrick Geddes, the Edinburgh-based natural scientist and social reformer. Geddes was the co-author of the Evolution of Sex (1889), which asserted that sexual difference was present at the cellular level and therefore immune to modification. Yet this extreme form of biological essentialism belies the text’s utility to several contemporary feminists, due to its insistence upon sexual equality, its emphasis on altruism as a female quality and its discussion of birth control. Regarding sexual relationships, Geddes claimed that they were subject to evolutionary forces and predicted a future in which a ‘more than earthly paradise of love’ would become the daily reality for all. He attempted to realise this earthly paradise, both in his intimate relationship with his wife Anna, and in the bohemian subculture he fostered in Edinburgh, through schemes such as his Summer Meetings. Overall, this chapter argues that while Geddes was motivated by radical purposes, his life and work suggest an indecisiveness over issues such as marriage and sexual pleasure: while he encouraged the celebration of sexuality when found in nature, and decried marriages of convenience, he was rendered profoundly anxious by the sexual misdemeanours of some of his male students.

Sexual progressives

Reimagining intimacy in Scotland, 1880–1914


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