Still, today, long hair and effeminacy seem synonymous: the well-balanced virile man is close-cropped in youth and close-cropped in age. But then in the days of yore, as now, the betting should always be on skimpy clothes and wild hair…
…And it is the same story with sex as with violence- precocity all the way. That Juliet was fifteen astonished no one in Shakespeare’s audience: for them, pubescent girls were fair game. In the eighteenth-century William Hickey- a cherubic, lovely boy with a soft,peachlike complexion and long, girlish, curly hair-was familiar, at fourteen, with all the Covent Garden brothels. Add to this his penchant for the bottle and his uncontrollable lust for gambling, and we have a picture of a not untypical rich, bourgeois boy of the eighteenth-century.
Hickey’s friends,and he was very popular, only differed from Hickey in the extent of their excesses. Nor was this a vice of Anglo-Saxon youth. It is an aspect of at least the last five centuries of the European scene. Britain’s youths had their parallels from Italy to Sweden.
And they are still with us, or rather they continue to be back with us after a temporary absence in the first half of the twentieth century. Its part of an ever-lasting problem of the sexually mature adolescent one finds in all societies affluent enough to fill the pockets of young males. Its not really a problem of our society alone; it is a problem of humanity, made worse, it may appear, because we are richer and more numerous today, and much intensified by publicity and our lack of any sense of proportion.
Percentage wise, counter-culture youth are far less violent, murderous and intolerable than their historic counterparts. Even if exhibitionism was to be taken more lightheartedly, less choleric in the face of the obvious evidence of youthful virility, the problem will still be there as long as we are affluent and free from a rigidly imposed state morality.Without that, there will be student battles on the beaches, drunkenness, sex orgies. Since before Samson’s day, long hair or alternative hair styles and virility have been, shall we say, bedfellows.
(see link at end) ..But the epicentre of the Georgian sex trade was Covent Garden. There, men could not pass without being accosted by women silently offering their arm or lewd suggestions.
At coffee shops and jelly houses, where exotic concoctions were eaten from tall glasses, hundreds of lavishly adorned women sat looking for business.
The infamous Harris’ List of Covent Garden Ladies was a directory of London prostitutes, circulating from the late 1740s.
It detailed each girl’s charms. Typical is the entry in 1788, describing Miss Lister, of 6 Union Street, Oxford Road.
‘She is painted by the masterly hand of nature, shaded by tresses of the darkest brown, with the neighbouring hills below full ripe for manual pressure, firm and elastic, and heave at every touch.’
Often, lower class prostitutes used clothes borrowed from their bawd or ‘matron’, who would pay a girl to follow them, to ensure the clothes were not stolen.
A German visitor of the time observed prostitutes in the West End. ‘Usually a crowd of female creatures stand in front of the theatres, amongst whom may be found children of nine or ten year, the best evidence of moral depravity in London.
‘In general, the English nation oversteps all others in immorality, and the abuses which come to light through addiction to debauchery are unbelievable.’
Appallingly, it was widely believed that sexual congress with a child cured venereal disease. Brothels like the Temple of Aurora supplied prepubescent girls as young as 11 to rich patrons.
Flagellation was also a common Georgian deviancy. Harlots used a scourge of birch twigs to beat willing clients across bare buttocks.
It was often administered in bagnios that doubled as brothels, where girls were fetched in sedan chairs when required.
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