Tjeder, David
Title:The Problematic Manhood of Don Juan: the seducer and the chastity debate in Sweden 1800. Don Juans problematiska manlighet: förföraren och sedlighetsdebatten i svenskt 1800-tal
Published in:Historisk Tidskrift
Volume/Part:120 (2000:3)
Type:Published works
Keywords:Don Juan, seducer, purity debate
No electronic version available.

      This article has argued that the seducer came to be an important countertype to normative masculinity towards the end of the nineteenth century, and especially in the 1880s. Although the seducer had been critiqued throughout the nineteenth century and earlier, it was only at the end of the century that the seducer became an important countertype to manhood. The seducer as countertype was linked to a new perception of masculinity as grounded in a chivalric attitude to women, and male sexual chastity before marriage. The seducer was decried as a man lacking morality, causing women to fall, and to ultimately become prostitutes. The discursive focus on the seducer was a way of criticizing the double standard, especially the perception that male sexual experience before marriage, often with prostitutes, was unproblematic. I here deviate from the interpretations of Lynda Nead, James Mandrell, Lyn Finch, and Ellen Carol DuBois and Linda Gordon, who in different ways have perceived the discourse on seduction as reinforcing patriarchy rather than threatening it. I also deviate from earlier research on the purity debate in the Nordic countries, where the feminist movement and its discussion of sexuality have been perceived as traditional and regressive. In describing the evil seducer, both men and women of the late nineteenth century changed the meaning of manhood in demanding that men be as sexually controlled as women.

      However, perceptions of the seducer were not monolithic. A number of popular guides to seduction were printed and reprinted from the 1870s onward, where the seducer, far from being a countertype to real manhood, embodied that manhood. Also, those who critiqued the seducer at times complained that young men themselves connected seduction and masculinity. The late nineteenth century in general and the debate on sexual purity in particular, then, were to a large extent focussed on discussing Don Juan's difficult and problematic masculinity.
Last Modified: 15.04.2002