What is a 'fallen woman'?

            A fallen woman is a Victorian woman with sexual experience. In almost every situation, a fallen woman has a "sexual trespass that produced her fall" (Auerbach 30). Fallen woman are popularly prostitutes, which were very common during the Victorian era. The fallen women is the opposite of the ideal women. However, the husbands of ideal women will still turn to fallen women for sexual experiences. Ideal women are regarded as innocent and angelic and society teaches that they need to be kept that way and often that excludes them from any sexual experiences, even after marriage. Although the majority of prostitutes' clients are "bachelors postponing marriage... middle-class youths... soldiers and sailors...and so on" (Tosh, "Historians with Masculinity", 182). Men also turned to homosexuality but although the "'gay life' was very widespread...it remained firmly out of sight" (Tosh, "Historians with Masculinity", 182). Due to sexual promiscuity through prostitutes STDs spread through society. In 1864 the first Contagious Diseases Act was enacted. This law held women responsible for the spread of STDs; therefore, doctors could legally examine any woman, or mechanically rape her, upon suspicion.  


  1. I like that you included the type of men that turned to sexuality (which reinforces the Victorian class system) and your nod to homosexuals. I think that aspect of masculinity was often overlooked during this time period.

  2. To clarify: Ideal women are regarded as angelic and often closely associated with mother and sister figures for men. This limits them to purely procreative purposes of sex and men turned to prostitutes for sexual pleasure and enjoyment. Ideal women often had children, so they were not completely void of sexual experiences.