Appetites, passions, and disgust
The penalties and paradoxes of unmanliness
in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900
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This chapter demonstrates that unmanliness was written onto ill-formed, unappealing bodies and faces that prompted disgust, fear, and shame. It shows that adult men were instructed on how to avoid unmanliness through emotionalised bodies: failing, uncontrolled, unattractive bodies created by unchecked appetites and bad habits such as drunkenness, and sexual vices. Men were thus taught that the inability to master one’s self caused literal physical, mental, and moral disintegration. Lack of self-control became more dangerous in the nineteenth century as excessive passions, bodily appetites, and feelings were increasingly pathologised as causes of disease and insanity. Responsibility was placed upon the male individual for failing to exert enough moral control to avoid his illness. The discussion of the relationship between unmanliness, bodies, and emotions that follows reveals the inherent paradox of masculine identity, since many unmanly behaviours were also those which, in a managed form, were central to the performance of normative masculinity. Thus, men had to navigate considerable ambiguities in performing their gender. The chapter shows how unmanliness was especially complicated for those men whose bodies were lacking, due to disability, age, or infirmity.

Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900

Bodies, emotion, and material culture

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