Sextant: revue du Groupe interdisciplinaire d'études sur les femmes issue:21 pages:15-29
Through an analysis of divorce proceedings filed for by both men and women on the ground of adultery at the end of the 19th century, and through a comparison between male perpetrators and victims, I want to examine the effects of the ‘double standard’ in matters of adultery on the construction of nineteenth-century masculine identity. In doing so, I seek to nuance the thesis of male ease versus female difficulty to file for divorce. Legal practice – in contrast to the norm proclaimed by the Code – was anything but straightforward: not only did opinions differ on which behaviour precisely constituted adultery, masculinity itself proved to be just as fluid. Cuckolded husbands in particular employed complex strategies to stabilize their masculinity in the course of the proceedings. Their narratives – especially in comparison to those of deceived wives and of various witnesses - allow a differentiation between proscribed versus expected male behaviour and lay bare one of the paradoxes woven into nineteenth-century masculinity.