Wollstonecraft on Purity (with a dash of Fielding)

My friend India Valentín has a great discussion of “the fallen woman” in the Victorian years. Something I found interesting, if horrible, is how similar it is to the mores and tropes around the issue in the eighteenth century, which had very different conceptions of women in many ways.

Of course, the ultimate discussion of this in England is Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She discusses multiple scenarios for how women could become unwed mothers—teenage ignorance, seduction, exploitation by predators—and then moves onto the shaming of rape victims:

When Richardson makes Clarissa tell Lovelace that he had robbed her of her honour, he must have had strange notions of honour and virtue. For, miserable beyond all names of misery is the condition of a being, who could be degraded without its own consent!

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