Fiction and historical tests carefully positioned in Anglo-American historiography provide new perspectives on the elusive world of female working-class sexuality. Working women are portrayed, not as victims or objects, but as active players in gender and class conflicts. Yorkshire lasses and older women used their sexuality to define their female adulthood through sexual experimentation during courtship, to discipline male aggressiveness and patriarchy, and to advance their status as working women. These antagonisms included sexually charged customs and behaviors, such as the ritual of "sunning": the sexual humiliation of young men by working women, and new meanings for female agency in premarital sexual activities. The behaviors and customs of Yorkshire working-class women reveal their uses of individual and collective activities to confront on their own terms both gender and class conflicts in the family, the workplace, and the trade union. The threatening power of female sexuality exercised collectively, openly, and dramatically was a reminder to all that the private world of sexuality and the workplace were deeply intertwined but not always at the expense of women.


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pp. 317-336
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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