With this original study, Melissa Mowry makes a strong contribution to a provocative interdisciplinary conversation about an important and influential sub genre: seventeenth-century political pornography. This book further advances our understanding of pornography's importance in seventeenth-century England by extending its investigation beyond the realm of cultural rhetoric into the realm of cultural practice.
In addition to the satires which previous scholars have discussed in this context, Mowry brings to light hitherto unexamined pornographies as well as archival texts that reveal the ways in which the satires helped shape the social policies endured by prostitutes and bawds.
Her study includes substantial archival evidence of prostitution from the Middlesex Sessions and the Bridewell Courtbooks. Mowry argues that Stuart partisans cultivated representations of bawds and prostitutes because polemicists saw the public sale of sex as republicanism's ideological apotheosis.
Sex work, partisans repeatedly asserted, inherently disrupted ancestral systems of property transfer and distribution in favour of personal ownership, while the republican belief that all men owned the labour of their body achieved a nightmarish incarnation in the prostitute's understanding that the sexual favours she performed were labour.
The prostitute's body thus emerged in the loyalist imagination as the epitome of the democratic body politic. Carefully grounded in original research, The Bawdy Politic in Stuart England, 1660-1714 is a cultural study with broad implications for the way we understand the historical constructions and legal deployments of women's sexuality.