The Substance of Sexual Difference: Change and Persistence in Representations of the Body in Eighteenth–Century England


  • Karen Harvey


The claims of Thomas Laqueur for a shift from a one–sex to a two–sex model of sexual difference are incorporated into many recent histories of gender in England between 1650 and 1850. Yet the Laqueurian narrative is not supported by discussions of the substance of sexual difference in eighteenth–century erotic books. This article argues that different models of sexual difference were not mutually exclusive and did not change in linear fashion, but that the themes of sameness and difference were strategically deployed in the same period. Thus, there was an enduring synchronic diversity which undermines claims for linear transformation.