restricted access The State’s Oversight: From Sexual Bodies to Erotic Selves

In thinking about the relationship between the sexed body and the state, it is worth recalling that both have a history. This essay, divided into two sections, uses the example of nineteenth-century England, which has had an exemplary status in scholarship on both the state and sexuality, to highlight the variability of law and government with respect to the body. The first section shows how a particular state during a key historical period produced sexuality through its decisions to protect and regulate some bodies and not to regulate and protect others through the state's marriage laws and sodomy laws. The second section of this essay looks beyond sexuality to explore state oversight in the second sense of the term: as an omission or lapse in attention. What were the intimate matters to which the state was relatively indifferent?