March 25, 2008  |  essays
  • Libertine – Libertine has come to mean one devoid of any restraints, especially one who ignores or even spurns religious norms, accepted morals, and forms of behaviour sanctioned by the larger society. The philosophy gained new-found adherents in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in France and Britain. Notable among these were John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, the Marquis de Sade, and Aleister Crowley. “Libertine”, like many words, is an evolving one, defined today as “a dissolute person; usually a person who is morally unrestrained”. In modern times, libertinism has been associated with sado-masochism, nihilism, and free love.
  • Rake – A rake is defined as a man habituated to immoral conduct. Rakes are frequently stock characters in novels. Often a rake is a man who wastes his (usually inherited) fortune on wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. The rake is also frequently a cad: a man who seduces a young woman and impregnates her before leaving, often to her social or financial ruin. To call the character a rake calls attention to his promiscuity and wild spending of money; to call the character a cad implies a callous seducer who coldly breaks his victim’s heart. These men are also known as heels. A bounder is an ‘ill-bred, unscrupulous man’, the social inferior of the cad.
  • Chivalry – Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood. It is usually associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love. The word is derived from the French word chevalier, indicating one who rides a horse (Fr. cheval). Today, the terms chivalry and chivalrous are used to describe courteous behavior, especially that of men towards women.
  • Lothario – a character in Nicholas Rowe’s 1703 play The Fair Penitent. He seduces and betrays the female lead. The name has come to mean any handsome seducer, generally male.
  • Don Juan (or Don Giovanni) is a legendary fictional libertine, whose story has been told many times by different authors. Don Juan is an unrepentant womanizer who seduces women either by disguising himself as their lovers or by promising marriage. He leaves a trail of broken hearts, angry husbands, and outraged fathers.In the legend, Don Juan is a roguish libertine who takes great pleasure in seducing women and (in most versions) enjoys fighting their champions. The main force of the legend revolves around his either raping or seducing a young woman of noble family, and killing her father. Later, he encounters a statue of the father in a cemetery and impiously invites it home to dine with him, an invitation the statue gladly accepts. The ghost of the father arrives for dinner and in turn invites Don Juan to dine with him in the cemetery. Don Juan accepts and goes to the grave where the statue asks to shake Don Juan’s hand. When he extends his arm, the statue grabs him and drags him away to Hell.
  • Casanova – So famous a womanizer was the Italian-born libertine Giacomo Casanova that, a full two centuries after his death, his name remains synonymous with the art of seduction. Still called “the world’s greatest lover.” In 1740 Casanova was back in Venice where he started his clerical law career in the church as an abbé. By now he had become something of a dandy — tall and dark, his long hair powdered, scented, and elaborately curled. He quickly ingratiated himself (something he was to do all his life) with a 76-year old Venetian senator, Alvise Gasparo Malipiero, the owner of Palazzo Malipiero. Malipiero moved in the best circles and taught young Casanova a great deal about good food and wine and how to behave in society. He never spent much time on his church career, due to his restless nature and preoccupation with sex.Judith Summers’ biography of Casanova paints a different picture of him than the traditional one. She describes how he was attracted to strong minded women who presented him with an intellectual as well as a romantic challenge. He did not pursue sex for its own sake and if he had nothing to say to a woman, rarely wanted to sleep with her. She also puts forward the theory that among his 200 plus lovers were many women who took advantage of his kindness, generosity, and vulnerability.
  • Sinclair Sexsmith – ???

(Thanks, Wikipedia) 

comment on this

Want more? You’re insatiable.

Highlights, announcements, workshops, and sometimes even exclusive smut. Plus, get the password for protected posts.


  1. Sin, as I started reading this post, I wondered if you had been reading historical fiction! But, you credit Wiki for the info.

    For Sinclair Sexsmith, whom I have never met, the description could start:
    A very sexy butch who is chivalrous and thoughtful.

    [Aw, thanks Jan. I have some further thoughts on this that will be coming in posts soon. Reputation, cultivating identity … there’s a lot. But meanwhile, I wanted to look at this culturally significant characters – that folks have been comparing me to – and start the conversation with some definitions. I was surprised how little I knew about all of these characters. – ss]

  2. Amazing, five years later and you still don’t have a wiki page…

Leave a Reply