(Illicit) Sex and the City: Transgressive Female Sexuality and the "Porno Gothic" Genre in George Thompson's City Crimes

Zaren Healey White


Focused on George Thompsons porno-gothic City Crimes (1849), this article rebuts the claim, put forth by Reynolds and Gladman in their introduction to a volume of his work, that Thompson may have created for woman readers a tantalizing space of sexual imagination. The editors suggest that Thompsons depiction of sexually voracious women can be read as provocatively feminist, specifically in its evocation of the free-love movement. This article seeks to undermine that claim by examining how the novel constructs female sexuality as transgressive and deviant, thereby eroding any feminist potential. By showcasing sexually insatiable female characters who seek lovers and kill their husbands in order to preserve their sexual freedom, and who ultimately suffer violent and ignominious deaths, City Crimes fuses female sexual appetite and fulfillment with criminality. As a result, Thompsons portrayal of women is not only unsympathetic but misogynist, and reflects the nineteenth-century gendered double standard.


American; feminism; female sexuality; free-love; George Thompson; City Crimes; porno-gothic; city mysteries; sensation fiction; flash press; New York City; Boston

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