Sexualities
in Myth and materiality in a woman’s world
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In the nineteenth century, official conceptions of moral order were largely equated with female sexuality. This chapter begins to construct an image of a Shetland in which female sexuality was intimately related to women's material circumstances rather than determined by a set of external rules. The ideals of Victorian womanhood, of separate spheres, domesticity and respectability which are so central to all our traditional understandings of women and gender relations appear to have had little relevance for most Shetland women. The majority engaged in economic production, were little concerned with the domestic sphere, had limited opportunities to fulfil the domestic ideal and possessed a strong sense of where their rights lay. By 1900 Shetland was immersed in the language of respectability, tinged with evangelical preoccupations with Christian morality, temperance and purity.

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