Sexuality in the Gaslight Era
The Gaslight Era had quite a dichotomous relationship to sexuality. On the one hand, strict moral codes and prudish attitudes dominated day-to-day life, with an emphasis on modesty, self-restraint, and the confinement of sexual expression within the sanctity of marriage. Of course, this totally ignored the universal presence of sex work, thriving despite social condemnation, driven by factors like poverty and gender inequality. At the same time, a growing fascination with scientific exploration led to an increasing medical interest and even obsession with matters related to sex and sexuality. Pioneering figures like Sigmund Freud and Havelock Ellis contributed significantly to the understanding of human sexuality by examining its various dimensions, including desire, pleasure, and sexual health.
Unnatural Allures blends these topics with the Gaslight Era‘s Egyptomania. In itself, the unwrapping of a mummy does not seem to be an inherently erotic act. However, it is the ultimate act of transgression. You can imagine the observers shivering with delight, thrilled by the methodical undressing of the dead body of an ancient dignitary or royal, robbed of its protective clothing and its dignity. Colonial exoticism, barely suppressed power fantasies and the pleasure of the taboo all add up to a highly eroticised atmosphere, an unnatural allure - tinged with the fear that the victim of this transgression might by some supernatural effect rise up and revert this power imbalance, as seen in the horror fiction of the time.