Blaming and Shaming in Whores' Memoirs

Sex, scandals and celebrity were all part of a blame and shame culture that existed in the 18th century, one that often fed off the misfortune of women at the hands of men. Julie Peakman looks at how prostitutes, courtesans and ladies with injured reputations took up the pen in retaliation.

Just as the exploits of the likes of Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse and Charlotte Church fill today's gossip magazines, notorious 18th-century women frequently found themselves in the limelight for their emotional outbursts, drunken revellings or pub brawls. Juicy titbits about them and other famous people were delivered in exposés of their affairs, adulteries and divorce cases, which in turn became part of the social make-up of public life. Gossip about sexual liasions first started to be broadcast in an explosion of print at the beginning of the century. Sex and how it figured within the lives of prostitutes, bawds and aristocrats became a topic aimed at an audience with an increasing appetite for titillation.

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