'Respectability' had great ideological power in
Victorian society. But current analyses of
middle-class leisure are seriously flawed in
over-marginalising less respectable behavior.
The paper begins by examining 'respectability' and
the non-work contexts where pressures for
compliance were strongest, such as the home and
the church. It then explores a range of leisure
contexts where pressures were far weaker, and
where more sinful pleasures such as the drinking of
alcohol, gambling, betting and sex outside marriage
were more likely to be found.
First there were life cycle contexts.
Middle-class teenagers, younger unmarried men and
men whose families had grown up were far more
likely to fall for such temptations. Second, certain
middle-class occupational groupings, such as
artists, travelling salesmen or those in the drink
trade were also more likely to pursue a less
respectable lifestyle. Third, the hold of
respectability was less strong in locational
contexts away from the tyranny of neighbours. The
more liminal nature of locations such as the
racecourse and the seaside, or the anonymity of
large urban areas, and the range of pleasures on
offer, could open up multiple leisure identities.