disease, including sexual “diseases” such as masturbation by children (Foucault, 1980). Sanitation
systems were established on scientific principles in the cities. The introduction of modern sewers and
pure water systems improved public hygiene and health. Many of the old laws against sexual crimes,
including prostitution, adultery, and homosexuality, remained on the books, however. During this period,
scientists began to understand that microbes cause disease. The start of public health clinics made it
possible to monitor the population and to better control people's sexual behavior (Foucault, 1980).
Unfortunately, folklore and myth found its way into sexual science at this time, and sanitation and hygiene
became new ways that the state began to control people's sexual lives.
The Victorian Era and Sexual Identity
We think of the Victorian era (1837–1901) as prudish, but it was
really the beginning of the modern period of today. During the Victorian era, the accepted view was that
sex should be private, hidden from and emotionally suppressed in children, and never mentioned in polite
society. The genders were highly polarized, as expressed in male and female sexuality.
To conform to the Victorian standard, one's body had to be fully covered, and for a woman, coverage from
neck to toes. Victorian-era women were expected to be submissive, motherly, and asexual. They did this
by wearing corsets, staying at home, remaining pure and using good hygiene, and being passive and
submissive, all to express Christian norms of the times. In the sexual culture, it was said that women had
“mothering drives.” And so, women were not allowed to express sexual pleasure, and were even