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Sex and the Austen Girl (& a BIG giveaway)

August 24, 2009

This guest post was written by Laurie Viera Rigler author of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, both which are available now. You can find out more about the author and her books at her website Jane Austen Addict. Please help me welcome Laurie to Stephanie’s Written Word!

In honor of the Everything Austen Challenge, I thought it would be fun to take a look at one of the things that many of us find most attractive about Jane Austen’s world (or our idea of Austen’s world); namely, the romance, and compare it to romance in the modern world.

 Have you ever wondered how our dating rules and rituals today might look to someone from Jane Austen’s England? 

This is a question I thought about constantly while writing my new novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. It’s the parallel story to my first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. 

In CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, a twenty-first-century Austen fan named Courtney Stone awakens one morning in 1813 England as a gentleman’s daughter named Jane Mansfield—with comic and romantic consequences.

 In RUDE AWAKENINGS, Jane, the gentleman’s daughter from 1813 England, finds herself occupying the body of Courtney in the urban madness of  twenty-first-century L.A.

For Jane, who was born into a privileged yet proto-industrial world of horse-drawn carriages and candlelit nights, the wired, electrified, and multi-tasking twenty-first century is a shock. So is its lack of servants, civility, or sufficiently modest clothing. There are, however, some very clever little machines, especially a shiny glass box in which tiny people act out scenes from her favorite novel, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  

Although nothing is familiar to Jane–not even her own face in the mirror–one thing is clear: the technological wonders of the modern world are a lot easier to comprehend than its rules of love.

In Jane’s world, she was forbidden to live alone, travel alone, or even earn her own money–let alone spend unescorted evenings with single men. While she revels in her newfound freedom, she struggles to make sense of how single men and women interact in the modern world. And so, when she finds herself falling for a young gentleman—who may not be a gentleman at all—she’s in over her head.

 Good thing she has the wise words of Jane Austen—and the counsel of a mysterious lady–to guide her.

And so I herewith pose the question that my heroine asks herself:

Are we better off now, or would we be better off back then?

(I suppose we’d have to remove from our equation the vision of Colin Firth emerging, dripping wet, from that lake—or that scene where he’s fencing—or  Matthew MacFadyen brooding across the moors…Otherwise, who could keep her thoughts straight?)

Here’s a list of the most glaring differences between dating today and courtship in 1813 (which is also the year that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE was published).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Getting Acquainted, 1813:

Although a ball is an all-important opportunity for singles to get to know one another, a woman is not allowed to dance with a man unless he has been properly introduced to her by a trusted friend. Or the master of ceremonies at the assembly rooms. He certainly can’t just walk up to her on the street and strike up a conversation.

Dancing is one of the only opportunities that single men and women have for a tête-à-tête, and it’s pretty much the only way they can touch. It’s a socially sanctioned way to display the grace and proportions of your body, and to admire those of your partner. Eye contact is very much a part of the dance. The whole ritual of display, chaste touch, and locking eyes with your partner is actually quite sexy, despite how stilted English country dance may look at first glance.

Is it any wonder that ballroom scenes are important in Austen’s novels? Other than balls, your opportunities to meet new people or develop intimate relationships with new acquaintances are limited to the social inclinations and fortunes of your parents and whatever heavily chaperoned parties and dinners they give, or are invited to. Not to mention whom you get stuck sitting next to at dinner. Oh yes, and don’t even think about getting involved with anyone from a lower social class.

Getting Acquainted, 2009:

Any man may approach any woman anywhere he pleases, and vice versa (at least theoretically; how many women make a habit of making the first move?). Class is no obstacle (at least theoretically). Opportunities for alone time are limitless. But does that mean modern singles take advantage of those opportunities to forge more intimate relationships than people did in 1813? After all, there’s always another opportunity to get together—or meet someone else. Why rush things?

 Staying in touch, 1813:

If a woman wants to see a man again after their initial meeting, all she can do is wait and hope he’ll visit her in her home or wherever she is staying (with relatives or other chaperones present, of course). Writing letters to the object of your affections is strictly prohibited unless you are engaged. So, if a man doesn’t make his move after the initial meet in person—and soon—chances are he’s just not that into her. Or in love with someone else. Or a twit.

Staying in touch, 2009:

Landlines, cell phones, voicemail, text, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter. Who calls first, how long after a meeting, and by what clever method? Do men still prefer to take the initiative, or do women feel as free to pursue as men do? Such are the great mysteries of modern living.

Gauging a Man’s Intentions, 1813:

When a single man reserves the first two dances at a ball with a young woman and then asks her to dance with him again, that’s a pretty obvious sign of interest. If he then pays regular visits to her mother and father, contrives to sit by her at dinner, and has little conversation for anyone else, a proposal is sure to follow.

Gauging a Man’s Intentions, 2009:

Since anything goes in the flirting and physical contact department, much of it in public, and none of it necessarily indicative of anything more than the ego and physical gratification of the moment, intention is anyone’s guess. Though a man may appear to be in love (or pretty close to it) prior to making love, the woman may never hear from him again after the deed is done. In that respect, things have not changed at all since 1813.

Making Love, 1813:

Something a man does verbally rather than physically, when he declares his affections and proposes marriage—a gentleman doesn’t do one without the other. And despite what he might wish would happen physically before that trip to the altar, he doesn’t expect more than a handshake. Even a kiss isn’t supposed to take place before marriage, but if it does happen it will definitely not be in public. (I don’t care; I still love that PDA kiss in the 1995 film adaptation of PERSUASION.)

 Making Love, 2009:

One of the things that Jane cannot wrap her mind around is the inherent contradiction of a society that glorifies brides and marriage with hugely elaborate weddings and an entire wedding industry, but at the same time engages in courtship, cohabitation, and even the sexual act without any matrimonial consequences. The language is also puzzling. At least “making love” refers to a physical act between two people in love. But “hooking up”? It brings to Jane’s mind being lured to one’s death, like a fish, while “having sex” sounds as if it has about as much gravity as “having cake.”

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!

Laurie has generously offered to send both of her books CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT to 3 lucky winners!!  

To enter all you need to do read this guest post and in the comments answer Laurie’s question – Are we better off now, or would we be better off back then? Please also include your e-mail address.

For an additional chance to win you can Tweet about this giveaway (@SWrittenWord has 3 copies of @austen_addict books to giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/lf3y29 #everythingausten) or post about this contest on your own blog. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US residents (sorry international readers) and you have until Saturday, August 29th at 12 midnight EST to enter. I will announce the winners on Sunday. Good luck!!

92 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2009 8:10 am

    1. My answer:
    Can’t we have the best of both worlds? (*grin*) I think there’s something to be said for chastity and the longing look, even in modern times; but I think I prefer the more direct approaches of the late 20th century for technology, communication, and forthrightness.

    2. I tweeted about this (twitter.com/pattierwr, protected acct.)

    3. Blogged about the contest as well (http://freshbrewedwriter.blogspot.com/2009/08/austen-giveaway.html)

  2. August 24, 2009 8:58 am

    I haven’t read either of these books so I’d love the chance to read them. If the choice is between then and now, I vote for now. But somewhere in between would be better.

  3. August 24, 2009 9:44 am

    I have to say I think we were better off then. The words, a glance, a touch meant so much more then because they were not easily given away. They all held a world of meaning. I think today, we have given those away so freely that we think nothing of them. I guess I’m a romantic at heart!

    I would love to read these books since I’ve recently become a Jane Addict myself. Thank you for your great blog and giveaway.

    I’m also making a post on my blog about the contest.

  4. mountainsofbooks permalink
    August 24, 2009 10:30 am

    I definitely admire Austen’s time, but I think both the present day and then have their pluses and minuses. Conversation, touch, etc were more purposed and meaningful then (at least for the most part) because of the restrictions on relating to the opposite sex. While in our own time anything goes, which can have some sad effects.

    Though, a modern day plus, is that if you were to meet someone you liked at a ball or gathering you do have the convenience and proper social ability to contact them without further introduction or supervision…especially if you wouldn’t have had the chance to meet them again otherwise.

    I enjoyed this post and Confessions…I’ve yet to read Rude Awakenings, but look forward to it!

  5. mountainsofbooks permalink
    August 24, 2009 10:46 am

    Posted about it on my blog: http://mountainsofbooks.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/update-everything-austen/

  6. Rickie permalink
    August 24, 2009 11:09 am

    Thank you, Laurie, for the insight into your books – I’d love to read them, being a JAA myself. And for your very true thoughts about how the world has changed…

    I think women were better off in Jane Austen’s time only regarding romance – the courtship and the ‘process of lovemaking’ were to die for IMHO. Whereas today I feel the romance’s widely missing; everything’s often soooo prosaic not to say vulgar. Furthermore, at present, if any obstacle in one’s relationship occurs – so what! Let’s skip/stop it and go on to the next love interest…

    I really DON’T think the women of Jane Austen’s time were better off in barely any other aspect of life, having practically no right as a person after marriage (not that they had before being reigned by their parents), even being formally called by their husband’s name (‘Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy’), and their possessions, if any, being no longer theirs but their husband’s. If such a husband decided to ban his wife from his society so be it – her destiny then was possibly to live at his most remote property never to see him again – and so on.

    Therefore, I’m glad about living in the 21st century in the possession of my guaranteed civil rights. To indulge my romantic feelings I have all those great novels in which you, dear Laurie, and your fellow writers offer opportunities enough to dream about men like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley!

    Stephanie, great blog, btw!

  7. August 24, 2009 11:12 am

    Guess what! I ‘ve just stopped reading “Rude Awakenings” – which is my third task for the challenge – to see if there were something interesting in my blog roll and … here I am commenting this wonderful post! Thank you Stephanie for giving us all these great opportunities. Your Everything Austen Challenge is becoming more and more fun everyday! Now… My answer to Laurie’s question: I think our modern straightahead way of approaching each other, get acquainted, have a free sexual relationship has stolen much from our emotional life more than adding much. No magic, little romance, no delayed gratification so … quick disillusionment and boredom!
    That’s all! I’ll go and post about it on my blog!
    My e- mail address is : learnonline@splinder.com
    MG

  8. August 24, 2009 11:55 am

    Things in movies and books often seem more romantic than they are in real life, especially matters from the past. That being said, though, some of the mystery and mystique has been lost between the sexes as a result of modern technology and modern times, where everyone and everything is available 24/7. As our world gets larger and more complicated, things have a tendency to get more superficial and less meaningful, but I think that there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches to life, romance, and courtship.

    I’d love to win these books! Thanks for an excellent post.

  9. August 24, 2009 12:45 pm

    I would lean towards we are better off today. A lot of what sounds romantic in books would drive me nuts. Not being able to dance with a guy unless you were officially introduced? Or not even able to just go over and talk to him when you feel like it? Ugh.

    Oh and please enter me :) I tweeted (debworldofbooks)

    dasuzuki at yahoo dot com

  10. August 24, 2009 12:45 pm

    What a great giveaway! I think we’re better off in some ways and worse off in others. Some of the rituals back then were just too stilted. I think we are often way too connected these days. I keep my cell phone on and with me all the time, but I really do think it’s just too much!

  11. Jennifer permalink
    August 24, 2009 1:16 pm

    All I know is I’d take Matthew MacFadyen as a caveman or captain of a starship. Does that answer the question?

  12. August 24, 2009 1:22 pm

    Oh please enter me- I’ve been dying to read both of these wonderful books:)

    Personally I think that in a perfect world a mix of both would be great:) The advancement in technology has made it that it certainly is much easier to communicate- but this would tend to the ‘immediate satisfaction’ or right-now or never kind of attitude- which is not always great. We’re lacking so manyof the nuances that are shared in looks, sighs, and nov-verbal communication. this new technology has taken away much of the emotion and anticipation needed to the real romantic at heart. Everything is at a click of a button-alas! Excellent food for thought- loved this post:) Thanks

    I just sent a tweet as well for that extra chance:)

  13. Virginie Barbeau permalink
    August 24, 2009 1:24 pm

    Wonderful giveaway! I personally have always wanted to live in the ‘olden days’. Things were so much simpler then – or so it seems.

    Will be tweeting this (@FleurDeMar) and added the giveaway to my blog under the Giveaways tab. Good luck to everyone!

    http://virginiebarbeau.wordpress.com/

    • Virginie Barbeau permalink
      August 24, 2009 1:42 pm

      Oh darn. I just noticed it’s only for US readers. I will have to withdraw my entry. Still, good luck to everyone else!

      V.

  14. August 24, 2009 1:29 pm

    I would have loved to live in the Austen time period. However, I like the independence that women have in today’s day and age. It would only have been a bit fun then if I was considered royalty or upper class or whatever the right term is! :)

    I added this to my sidebar. Hope that counts!

    I Twittered this contest!

  15. August 24, 2009 1:33 pm

    I don’t know which is better off, but I think that the past is a lot more romantic. One look, perhaps a touch, and that’s all you get! There also seems to be a lot more mystery in the “he loves me, he love me not” department. I would love to travel back to the time and experience it for myself. These books sound absolutely lovely!

    I tweeted about the giveaway: http://twitter.com/MelaniesMusings/status/3516551804 :D

  16. August 24, 2009 1:47 pm

    (P.S. I posted a link to this amazing giveaway in my blog’s sidebar!
    Thank you, Stephanie and Laurie!)

  17. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 24, 2009 2:16 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read these! Well, we are both better off and worse off today. We have more freedom as women, but are treated with less romantic respect. We have more ways of staying in contact or meeting new people, but we are often staring at a screen to do it. We have the power to ask a guy out, but usually the ones who are worth it will ask us out first. Fun post!
    stacybooks at yahoo

  18. August 24, 2009 2:22 pm

    As much as I like to think of myself as a modern woman, I have to admit that 1813 sounds better when it comes to love. A Man had to be proactive in Austen’s day in order to secure the woman he loved, and today many men tend to be just interested in superficial, physical relationships.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    butterflythunder(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

  19. August 24, 2009 3:12 pm

    I definitely think that we are better off now. While we may swoon over Jane Austens’ words and characters, in her books or the tv/movie adaptations, remember that she was only portraying a certain class of people. And while things always worked out for the best for her heroines, it was not always so for everyone else. Jane Austen herself never ended up happily ever after with the man of her dreams. Plus, I don’t want to live without modern medicine!!! :)

    j.t.oldfield[AT]gmail.com

    I just tweeted this!

  20. August 24, 2009 3:23 pm

    Like almost everyone else, I have to say that I’d prefer a bit of both worlds…I couldn’t live without the freedom of movement I have today, but I also pine for the days when social interactions meant so much more, and you KNEW the terms of engagement. Living in the now is kind of confusing, sometimes, even for its own denizens. But if you absolutely made me pick one or the other, I’d have to pick today. I value my freedom too much to say otherwise.

    Great question, and great giveaway! Please enter me!

    celialarsen(at)gmail(dot)com

  21. August 24, 2009 3:29 pm

    Oh this is a tough one. There are benefits in both times. I don’t know, I’m an old fashion sort of girl. So I guess the “rules” back in that day make a lot of sense and seem to be clear cut. It was easier to determine whether or not a guy liked you. Because society was what it was, a man who went around jilting woman was not looking on kindly.

    The anything goes attitude in today’s society is demeaning I find.

  22. Sue permalink
    August 24, 2009 3:37 pm

    I think there are definitely plusses from both times, but I’m better off now. Love the giveaway! Thanks for sharing.

  23. Margay permalink
    August 24, 2009 4:55 pm

    I’m not sure we are better off today. Sure, we have all sorts of conveniences that would’ve been considered science fiction in Jane Austen’s time, but I think we sacrificed a lot for it. Despite the fact that we can connect with anybody at any time, night or day, with email, Facebook, Twitter, the iPhone and the like, we are still kind of anti-social. It’s easier to tweet someone than to call them, to IM someone than to write to them. I think that takes a little bit of the magic out of it. And with the internet, it is so easy to find out everything you want to know about someone (especially if they’re celebrities) and is that really better? There is no mystery anymore, no romance. Thankfully, we still have books for that.

    Margay

    Margay1122 (at) aol (dot) com

  24. August 24, 2009 5:41 pm

    My sneaking suspicion is that back in the day, I’d have ended up a spinster, so my vote is we are better off now. (Who wants to be a spinster??) Of course a bit more romance would be great. Ah, who am I kidding? We need a LOT more romance in the modern age!

    I’m also tweeting this:

  25. etirv permalink
    August 24, 2009 7:07 pm

    Hmmmm, I just watched Lost in Austen on DVD! I love reading historical fiction, am old fashioned in some ways, and find that some things really were better during Austen’s period… but despite many of the things I find undesirable about the present time (AIDS, values, etc.), I still think we’re better off now with modern technology, medicine and freedom. I’m happy I live in the 21st century!

  26. August 24, 2009 7:41 pm

    Such great lessons! While I would not want to live in a time with so many restrictions, the attitude of honor and respect is certainly something that I would love to see return to modern courtship behavior. I do think sex is far too casual in modern times.

  27. August 24, 2009 7:43 pm

    We’re better off now. I would hate having to wait and wait and wait for suitors. Plus because of the class system, the selection of suitors is limited.

    Here’s my blog post:

    http://vvb32reads.blogspot.com/2009/08/jane-austen-frills-082409.html

    vvb32 at yahoo.com

  28. August 24, 2009 7:48 pm

    Great Post! I have mixed feelings. I miss the romance that they had back then. It would have been nice to have such clear cut boundaries – it really protected women from being taken advantage of sexually. But on the other hand I do wonder how on earth they got to know each other before marriage back then. Always being chaperoned would be a serious drawback to pouring out your heart, making plans for your future etc.

    I have posted this giveaway on my sidebar: http://thereadingjourney.blogspot.com

    email: thereadingjourney[at]gmail.com

  29. August 24, 2009 8:03 pm

    I am one of those who was always pretty fed up with the way women are treated NOW. I think back then, at least there was protocol, and the women were respected even though they did not have the same type of equality rights and other issues that we have now, but we also have made ourselves too available. I would love to NOT be approached by a man unless he properly goes through the respectful channels. The whole ‘anything goes’ mantra has seemed to degrade the status of the woman in the dating arena. Maybe some women don’t need constant companionship in a husband.. to have to cater to him all day long is tiresome. I wouldn’t mind having a maid to help around the house, and then see my husband at dinner time or at socials. :)
    marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

  30. August 24, 2009 8:18 pm

    Oh boy. . . sigh. . . this is a tough one. I’m really figuing that it’s actually in between. There are some things that sure wouldn’t be so bad that we still did, but that the same time, wouldn’t give up modern life. So maybe if I were to only pick one, today — women’s lib and all that stuff. :)

    Lois, who also tweeted at @OV_099
    OV_099@yahoo.com

  31. August 24, 2009 9:32 pm

    How awesome and would totally rock my world for the Everything Austen Challenge.

    Ummm, let’s see…although there is something to be said for life in the 1800’s, I don’t think I could live without my technology. I get annoyed that I am “available” at any freakin’ hour, but c’mon – no internet? Yah right. :P

    c (dot) beumer (at) gmail (dot) com

    awesome!

  32. August 24, 2009 9:43 pm

    Theoretically we’re better off now, particularly as women because we don’t have to be bystanders. On the other hand, the rules were so much easier to follow in early 1800’s. And I often think my kids would be much better off in the romantic sense without the internet–less gossip, less opportunity to say the wrong thing. Plus our clothes are no where nearly so beautiful. Plus, it’s still hard to find the right person even without so many restrictions. So maybe we were better off in ye’ olde days!

    litandlifeATgmailDOTcom

  33. August 24, 2009 9:43 pm

    I also tweeted.

  34. August 24, 2009 10:26 pm

    Soooo disappointed that this is not open to international readers…

    Reading this interview was very interesting…I’m thinking in terms of love and sex maybe they did have a few things better back then LOL.

  35. August 24, 2009 11:38 pm

    I really enjoyed this interview and would love to win the books! In response to the question, I think that it would be nice to have a hybrid. Some of the considerations of “then” would work now, but I like the freedom of modern times.

  36. August 24, 2009 11:44 pm

    love this!!!! i wanted to tell you that i’m picking up sense & sensibility on YOUR rec from the library tomorrow and can’t wait to watch it!

    now, on to the question:

    i think the whole dating scene then and now is too scary and i’m happy to have a husband. if i had to do it again, i’d go back to the caveman era and wait for some hirsute neanderthal to drag me off by my hair to be his wife.

  37. August 25, 2009 11:52 am

    This is a tough one. I definitely enjoy the way my dating relationships have gone and how I met and eventually married my husband. But my dating experiences have been kept within a culture within a culture. I’m a Mormon and all of my experiences have stemmed from that. So in a way I think I grew up with a hybrid of the two. I wasn’t allowed to date til I was sixteen. My Church says abstinence before marriage. We also believe marriage is for eternity, not for just this life. So when we date every person becomes a perspective spouse! So it’s a hugely different dating dynamic when we bring God into it and the dominating culture. I should clarify that I grew up in Utah as a Mormon where most everyone around me was my same religion…thus the culture/social expectations of dating were everywhere, not just the religious ones.

    So when I dated, I dated men I knew would help me keep my standards and would respect me. My courtship with my husband was great! I made the first move and he responded in kind. So like I said before, a hybrid works best and that’s the way it worked for me!

    I also blogged about this on my blog:

    http://gofita.blogspot.com/2009/08/sex-and-austen-girl-big-giveaway.html

  38. August 25, 2009 1:04 pm

    Stephanie,
    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog to reveal the name of the Eileen Goudge book I had been looking for! It’s awesome that you took the time to do that.

    Also, this was a really togreat post. I love the stark comparisons between the two eras. To answer the question, I think it might have been a little bit better back then. Even though women were not really able to control the aspects of romance, I think there is something enticing and subtly sexy about all the formal rules of attraction that one had to play by at that time. I think that may be why chivalry and romance seem to be in such short supply nowadays.

    I would love a chance to win copies of these books, they look endlessly entertaining. Thanks for hosting this contest!

    zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

  39. August 25, 2009 1:10 pm

    I also tweeted this giveaway:

    http://twitter.com/Zibilee

  40. justicejenniferreads permalink
    August 25, 2009 3:57 pm

    Tweeted:

    http://twitter.com/xseptembergrlx

    Answers:
    Personally, I feel like we were probably better off then. Sure, courtship was short and it was difficult to really get to know the other person, but when we really think about it, isn’t it just as bad today? People jump in bed with total strangers! We might have the freedom to get to know men before getting involved, but we don’t take advantage of that freedom so it seems safer to not have it in the first place. At least back then, marriage was sacred and meant something. Today it just seems to be a convenient arrangement and divorce rates are terrifyingly high.

    E-mail: JLesnick@scu.edu

    BTW, loved this post. It gave me a lot to think about and I found the info about courtship to be especially interesting.

  41. August 25, 2009 5:12 pm

    My answer in all honesty?I dont know.
    but im always ambivilant like that.
    If I had to say one I would answer better off now. I think theres merits to both times but in general, I think the way it was done then was…..limited in so many ways.

    wheresmyrain(at)yahoo.com

  42. August 25, 2009 7:13 pm

    It is so funny that Laurie chose this question because ever since reading her books that question has been running around in my head. I was at my writing group this past week and I wrote about this very topic. Despite the fact that there are many times I think I would like to have lived back in an earlier time, I realize that I am probably better off trying to make the time I DO live in the best it can be. This is a shortened and obviously edited version of my full answer, but it explains things as concisely as I can in this format. I truly hope I win this, these books have meant so much to me and I would LOVE to own them!

    Thanks for the chance!
    scrapgirl1467@yahoo.com

  43. August 25, 2009 7:58 pm

    This is absolutely hands-down one of the best author guest posts I have ever read!

    The question is a hard one to answer. I’m a big fan of freedom, and we definitely have far more freedom now than women did then. However, in exchange for that freedom, we’ve given up a great deal of protection. In Austen’s time, a young lady had the protection of her family, her community, and societal strictures to ensure that she was treated properly. (During courtship, that is; once she got married, all bets were off and she was at the mercy of her man.) Women no longer have that level of protection. When it comes to dating, we’re largely on our own, making decisions with little illumination, and in charge of defending our own honor. Which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad thing. We get hurt. We pick ourselves up. We grow stronger.

    And look at that, I’ve talked myself into a definitive answer. We are much better off today, because our freedoms (and mistakes) allow us to grow in ways Austen’s contemporaries never could.

  44. August 25, 2009 8:00 pm

    PS I also Tweeted and blogged it!

  45. jennifermorrill permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:00 am

    I would take Austen-era way of life over todays. Don;t get me wrong, I love the advannces of technology that we have today, I just think things were so much simpler then. But, who knows, you always want what you can’t have!

    Please enter me! Great guest post and giveaway!

    ~Jenn
    jennifermorrill(at)att(dot)net

    Oh…I posted a link in my sidebar.

    http://jennifermorrill.wordpress.com/giveaways-on-other-sites/

  46. jennifermorrill permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:01 am

    So many advances, that I can’t spell correctly apparently!

  47. Wanda permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:46 am

    In so many ways I think we were better off then. I believe things were much simpler back then.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  48. August 26, 2009 8:02 am

    I so want to read these!

    I think we’re better off now in terms of meeting potential mates but it is sort of sad that the sense of the forbidden has gone out it courtship. How’s that for a sitting on the fence answer?!

    whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

  49. Amy Silcox permalink
    August 26, 2009 8:21 am

    Hmmmmm….I think I would take the courtship of Austen’s era over the uncertainities of today. At least then if he didn’t call on you within a week or so you knew it wasn’t going to happen. But I like my freedom and being able to choose who I want to date an who I don’t want to.

    I’m very uncertain about this one!!!!!! :)

    I also added this to my sidebar. Fabulous interview!!!!!!

    amysilcox80 at aol dot com

  50. August 26, 2009 9:09 am

    Hmm. I would have to say that if you want romance then Austen’s era is the winner. The courtship, the dancing, a touch here and calling on the one you are interested in just sounds so lovely and a bit dreamy in a sense – makes the men seem romantic. Plus it gives women a clear cut idea of whether or not a man is interested in her. However, how do you really get to know each other if you can’t talk or write each other whenever you want to. The limits placed on a couple’s interactions are bit too restricting and definitely not beneficial to the couple in any way I would imagine. I appreciate the freedoms we have today where if I am interested in someone I can go up to him and ask him out and I can see him when I choose to. I suppose I would choose a modern day relationship with a splash of Austenish romance.

  51. Emily W permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:25 pm

    I really loved reading the comparison between 1813 and now! A lot has changed! But I do think that I would prefer to be a single girl in 2009 than in 1813. In Austen’s time the woman has no control over whether or not a man will get in touch with her, she simply has to wait for him. What if you don’t make a good first impression, but you make a wicked second impression, but he never calls on you and so everyone misses out? No, I most definitely prefer dating now-a-days than in 1813, I couldn’t stand the waiting around, with propriety dictating that I couldn’t speak to a man until he had first spoken to me.

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway opportunity!

    emily DOT wittenberg AT gmail DOT com

  52. Lee permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:41 pm

    Without a doubt – now is better! Impossible to have no say about who you meet, talk to or even what you do with your time. No chance for independence of any kind would drive a modern woman out of her mind, romance not withstanding. The past of Jane Austen is a past seen through rose-colored glasses, which I suppose is what makes it so irresistable. Thanks for the peek at it we get in your books.

  53. August 27, 2009 12:13 am

    I already have the first book, but would love to win a copy of Rude Awakenings!

    I would have to say that now is better. I like all of the amenities of modern life, plus I don’t think I could stand losing the privileges and freedoms that women have now.

    akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

  54. Fatima permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:59 am

    I think society was better of then.

  55. Emily K permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:29 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful post.

    As much as I love the Regency era in terms of clothing, books, etc, I don’t think I’d be very happy to suddenly find myself living in 1813. I love traveling, my work, having access to millions of affordable books, my 21st-century husband, and our marriage (where without any special legal protections, I am consider to be a legal person in my own right).

    The post did remind me how much I love old-fashion dancing where don’t have to be with my partner through the whole song, but you still have a chance to get to know him or her. It would also be so much more relaxing if random men weren’t allowed to just come up and start a conversation with you. If I could go back to 1813, be of high rank, have money, and live with a parent/husband/guardian that was kind to me, maybe it could be fun for a while, but I would rather live now and occasionally play dress-up at a historical ball.

  56. nfmgirl permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:51 pm

    That’s difficult to say. There are some things better now, and some things better then.There is something inherently touching and endearing about the chastity and propriety of the 1800s. However we tend to idealize it and make it all seem so romantic, when in reality much of the time it was stifling, with women being subservient to everyone.

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  57. nfmgirl permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:52 pm

    I tweeted:

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  58. nfmgirl permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:55 pm

    Blogged it:

    http://cerebralgirl.blogspot.com/2009/08/book-giveaways-in-blogworld-08-22-09.html

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  59. August 27, 2009 3:07 pm

    I own copies of both of these wonderful books, so I’m just popping in to say “Hi, Laurie!!!” What a fun and fabulous post. Loved reading the point-of-view differences between 1813 and today, esp. on “hooking up”–LOL. :)

    • August 27, 2009 6:46 pm

      Hi, Marilyn! So happy you enjoyed the post.

      I am loving all of these responses. Really stimulating discussion. Thanks to everyone for all of your thoughtful comments!

  60. August 27, 2009 3:47 pm

    I’d love to be in Austen’s time, for the manners, civility and such, but I think there’s much more here that I prefer. The creature comforts (Air Conditioning!!) are great, progress has been made in the area of women’s rights, race relations, etc. And like a previous entrant mentioned, everything in the movies & literature can be easily romanticized. Still, a man in regency clothes and an English accent will always be yummy!

    Thanks for the chance to win– I loved “Confessions” and look forward to “Rude Awakenings”!

    LauraHartness@gmail.com

  61. August 27, 2009 5:45 pm

    Very interesting comparison. I’m excited to read the new book! As great as the first book was, I think it’d be very hard for us modern women to go back in time and accept our limited choices and freedoms. So I’ve got to vote for now being better, but I still wish that we hadn’t lost all of that romance with the restrictions.

  62. Kim permalink
    August 27, 2009 9:57 pm

    Mmmmm, when it comes to courting/dating I would pick Austen’s time. I agree that we have over Romanized that period, but you have to admit there’s something to be said about taking your time to get to know someone or the anticipation of the next dance. In the 21st Century, we’re going dutch and responding to emails and text for a date. I mean goodness; we’re cyber dating these days! Have you ever received roses via internet? We couldn’t figure out where to go in order to pick them up – of course you don’t.

    Now, for everything outside of romance, I definitely want to stay in the 21st. century. I really like that women have the right to vote and to earn and do what we want with our money. Well, I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it too….

    Read Confessions for my book club and Laurie joined in for our group discussion, which was awesome – thank you so much, Laurie!

  63. August 27, 2009 11:52 pm

    It’s a toss up. If the marriage wasn’t one that was (more or less) arranged and was actually one of love, then Jane’s time has the romance down. Although, my hubby and I emailed a lot while dating (due to miles apart at times) and I think had some great letter conversations. But in terms of the woman’s independence I’m glad I live now. I would have felt smothered in her world of not being able to do things alone or to be at the mercy of my family for survival.

  64. August 28, 2009 9:47 am

    What a thought provoking post and comments for the JAA’s!! I must say that I think that there are pros and cons to both time periods. I do like that in the 1800’s there was more written communication as I feel that one can express themselves more honestly this way. My husband and I had a long distance relationship when we were first dating and relied on letter writing. We shared things that we wouldn’t always talk about and in so much more depth. We did save the letters but I am not sure I want to go back and read them! I think that we have lost some of the personal connections via email, texting and cell phones. Although, it does allow that instant communication.

    I can’t wait to read Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. I read Laurie’s first book Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict as part of the Everything Austen Challenge and loved it. It did make me think about living in these different time periods and the pros and cons.

    I tweeted about this giveaway!

    redladysreadingroomATgmailDOTcom

  65. August 28, 2009 12:45 pm

    What a fun post!!
    I think now is better. Even though it’s certainly more stressful to date, as some of the social clues are a bit muddy, I still think now is better because women have the freedom to chose. Reputations are not so easily ruined and women have more input into their futures.

  66. Heather permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:22 pm

    Prettygrl1083@aol.com

    Q: ARE WE BETTER OFF NOW, OR WOULD WE BE BETTER OFF BACK THEN?
    A: I think that it is a little bit of both, I mean men still played with women’s emotions then as they do now. But now getting married isnt such an issue, women are not looked down on for being single till later in life or forever. But I think that now we are lacking how important sex is in a relationship because it is so normal to just do it is ok. Courtship is sex now days and I dont think that it is that good of an idea. I think we would be better off if we can take the good things from today and keep them but not forget the important ideas from the past.

    posted on my twitter = @whoRu83

    posted onmy blog = http://heatheranncamp.blogspot.com/

  67. mystrygirl87 permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:34 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway and great post. These are on my TBR list at the library!

    I think there’s a lot to be said for chastity, modesty, etc, but the 1813 restrictions can also limit a girl’s prospects. Think of poor Charlotte Lucas, or Harriet Smith who had no comparison for knowing whether or not she was in love with her farmer.

    Today I think a girl has a better chance at finding love as opposed to making a match, because she can interact socially with many more men and in a variety of settings to really get to know them and determine if they are compatible. True, we’ve got a lot more Lydia Bennets nowadays, but in my opinion people can still choose to act like ladies and gentlemen even without a chaperone.

  68. August 28, 2009 7:38 pm

    I would have to say then. Everything was more indirect and romantic. I would definitely prefer then to now.
    I tweeted:http://twitter.com/knittingmomof3/status/3614173361
    knittingmomof3(AT)gmail(DOT)com

  69. August 29, 2009 8:36 am

    I’d love to be entered in the contest!

    I think with modern conveniences, change comes at a cost. However, there are benefits in the modern age that I don’t think I would trade.

  70. August 29, 2009 9:00 am

    First of all, what a wonderful, wonderful guest post! I loved reading the courtship rituals of 1813 and 2009 side by side.

    I always thought how scary it would be to have such limited time to interact before getting married, although the romance is still addictively sweet. I prefer the modern take- where you get plenty of time to realize the person is or is not the one for you. I have been engaged twice and I absolutely shudder at the thought I might have married either one of them if we had not taken the time to realize we were not to be after all! And let’s not even discuss the verbally abusive relationship that was mine last year. What if we had been married and I was forced to live out the rest of my life in that relationship?

    While I think the romance of Austen’s age is absolutely marvelous (and P&P is my favorite book & one of my favorite movies and you are right that Colin Firth emerging from the water is breathtaking), I prefer the courtship rituals of the 21st century, where I have been allowed to date, mate and recalculate and have now found the best man I have ever met! How lucky I am!

    I have been desiring to read Confessions for months since I read my first reviews on it. I would love the chance to win these books. I would love to see how Courtney and Jane deal with their new worlds. mycreativeimagination (at) yahoo.com

    I am also tweeting about this giveaway – twitter.com/imlostinbooks

  71. Joanna permalink
    August 29, 2009 12:17 pm

    I’m on the fence about this–love the innocence and modesty of JA’s world, along with the slower pace of things. On the other hand, couldn’t do without all my technology (even though it can be oppressive occasionally!) and love having a car and ipod!

    Re: romance, I’m definitely more of a Regency kind of gal, where most everything is understated.

  72. August 29, 2009 4:32 pm

    I’m clearly better off now. I never would have fit in to polite society then. I was always a be friends first, date later sort, and that would have clearly been frowned on.

    This was a fun post!

    Thanks for entering me in the giveaway.

    i-comment at deLeons dot com

  73. August 29, 2009 4:38 pm

    I think we’re better off now because in terms of dating, it doesn’t take as much guts to leave an e-mail or find you on Facebook, etc., but having to go to the person’s home with their whole family watching wondering when you’ll propose–yeah, a lot of pressure! So I think it’s easier to date today. Plus, woman have more choices today & we don’t have to sit and wait for some guy to show up & make his intentions known ;)

  74. jpetroroy permalink
    August 29, 2009 6:48 pm

    I think we’re better off now, especially with regards to women’s roles, the choices women have, and the equality of courtship. But I do miss the manners you see in the days of Austen.

    I also tweeted at https://twitter.com/jpetroroy/status/3633755727

    JenP

  75. janicu permalink
    August 29, 2009 9:18 pm

    Nice as it may seem back then I think I’m happy to be living now. :)

    I also tweeted this one.

  76. Barb S. permalink
    August 29, 2009 9:34 pm

    I believe that it is better to be in the current century than in the 19th. The role of a woman was that of being a submissive individual who had no rights. It is true that we have romanticized the women and their romances from that time period but in reality, women did not have the right to select their own husbands, especially for love. The class lines were such that no one could truly cross them to have a real relationship. Once married a woman became even more of a noncitizen and lost all rights to manage their own property.

    What was nice back then was the written correspondence and more civil behavior between the two sexes. However today we can talk and find out more about each other to more truly understand one another.

    In total I would rather be in the 21st century. We are more real beings with far less constrictions on our behavior.l

    I tweeted about this at : http://twitter.com/pine1211/status/3636430657

  77. August 29, 2009 9:44 pm

    Better off today. I can’t imagine not being able to stay in contact with my special person.

  78. Christina permalink
    August 29, 2009 10:40 pm

    Women are definitely better off now. They were really never better off in any point in history, unfortunately. While the delicacies of the Regency world are appealing, we are oft to forget the stench of the city, the stench of other people (ah, the rarity of the bath), the lack of social and political rights for women… we are certainly better off now. We can love whomever we want, we can make a life for ourselves independent of a man, we have freedom to dress as we please. The opportunities are limitless in 2009.

  79. August 29, 2009 10:48 pm

    I’d have to say it’s a draw. Some things were better then. There’s really something to be said about mystery and grace at the beginning of a relationship. However, there’s also something to say about jettisoning some of the insincerity of old rituals.

    Can’t quite decide…

    I’d love to win these books (and read them by electric light, not candles!)

  80. cathiecaffey permalink
    August 29, 2009 10:55 pm

    I’d love to win these! I love everything Jane Austen, so I’m excited about these books!

    Even after all I read about then and now, I couldn’t resist being back then with the balls and the rogues and all. I think it would be worth wearing those corsets for!!

    cathiecaffey(at)gmail.com

  81. August 30, 2009 5:15 pm

    Thank you to everyone for your fascinating thoughts and insights. And thank you, Stephanie, for inviting me here!

  82. August 31, 2009 10:58 pm

    I’ve been gone for almost a week and still blogging along to catch up, so I haven’t read all the way through this. BUT, thank you for taking the time to pose these questions! It is great. I will come back later to read it all.

  83. September 9, 2009 6:42 pm

    What a great website! I studied for a B.A in English Literature and I wished I had discoverd this fantastic place for Jane Austen! I’m looking forward to cherish a lot of the posts here. In the meantime, would someone tell me about Jane Austen and celibacy? My blog is about the involunary celibacy of a novelist. It seems Ms Austen also has an affinity with my affliction! Do enlighten me !

  84. jnaffier permalink
    September 17, 2009 7:15 pm

    The stories we read and the films we see are almost always about upper class or royalty. I am sure I would have been a farmer or a laborer’s daughter and look at the respect Emma gave to that sort. Look at the fate of Fanny Price’s mother for marrying beneath her class and in passion choosing a man of little achievement. And in reading JA’s biographies consider the likelihood of death from constant child bearing. 14 births before you are 40! How’s that for Romance! No thank you but JA’s books are always delightful to read – witty and wise. And the new novels we have now based on them. Fun.

  85. September 27, 2009 11:24 pm

    its kind of strange that i’ve seen a couple being voyeur at rilexme.com
    what about you guys

  86. October 7, 2009 7:06 am

    I found your article very useful and interesting. I have bookmarked the site for later usage. Peter

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  88. December 14, 2011 8:55 pm

    i enjoy this post greatly. ill be coming laterfor future poststhanks.

  89. January 5, 2012 3:28 am

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