Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review- Tipping the Velvet (DVD) by Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet (DVD)
2004- BBC mini series

Smitten by music hall life, and by the beautiful male impersonator Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes), Nan Astley (Rachael Stirling) leaves her family’s Whitstable oyster parlor and follows her heart to London. There she finds unimaginable joy—and misery—as she explores the secret side of fin de siècle life.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Sarah Waters and adapted by Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Doctor Zhivago), this powerful BBC drama is both a frank depiction of lesbianism and a witty and moving account of a young woman who will win your heart while searching for her own. Also starring Anna Chancellor (Pride and Prejudice), Jodhi May (The Last of the Mohicans), Hugh Bonneville (Iris) and John Bowe (Poldark). "Provocative and uplifting" ––The Baltimore Sun. "Flat-out sublime" ––The Seattle Times.




There are 103 reviews of this film on Amazon, so I think if you want a full spectrum of reviews you can go there. I thought I’d just give a few impressions of how I experienced the movie.

I haven’t read the book. Nor have I read any other of Sarah Waters’ books, so I really can’t compare it to the original story or her other stories. However, from what I gleaned over at Amazon, the movie version is pretty close.

I also can’t compare this to Fingersmith, which I read in several reviews is way better. So this is a first time impression based on nothing really except my personal experience with this film.

I loved it. Really loved it. There are very few films, or books for that matter, in which when it’s over I feel really sad. I didn’t want to let go of the world I’d just been in for a few hours, I wanted to hang out with the characters just a bit more.

Tipping the Velvet affected me on so many levels and I’ll admit that it did break my heart in a few places and I did get a bit emotional and cry a few times.

The first thing that hit me was how the relationship between Nan and Kitty develop. It’s a slow build up and Nan’s longing for Kitty palpable and extremely passionate. She’s only 18 and has no idea really that she’s in love with a woman as opposed to what she’s supposed to feel with a man, but is so smitten that she only knows she will do anything to be around Kitty.

This for me was the best part of the film, how they start relating and how slowly Kitty opens up to Nan and seduces her in a way. It’s sweet, it’s very romantic, poignant, innocent and it’s heartbreaking in a way. It brings up all those feelings of longing you’ve ever had a for anyone plus all that vulnerability when falling in love, and brings them to the front of your psyche. So this was very well done and rather emotional and touching for me.

Of course, things hit the skids because that’s what makes for good drama, and Kitty blows off Nan to marry their theatrical manager. This throws Nan into a tailspin of emotional anguish, which sets her off on a different journey than she would have thought for herself as a simple country girl.

I’ve read a few reviews of the book at Goodreads and quite a few mentioned that Nan seemed to drift aimlessly, having no backbone or ability to stand up for herself. I don’t know if the book portrays her like that, but in this story she does have backbone. It’s just strength to do what she has to do to survive. In that process, she uses and embraces this world she was in of dressing like a man to get what she needs and she grows from her experiences of selling herself in different ways to get on.

I will admit, that once Kitty was out of the picture it’s more of a somber drama without that inner feeling of joy that two people who love each other will be together and some of the passion of it was gone, with reality setting in. I kept wishing Kitty would somehow come back into the story, that it couldn’t be true that two people who loved each other like Kitty and Nan would not survive. But I admit this desire in me that they get back together kept up the tension and desire to watch this movie.

The scenery and imagery of Victorian life was very well done in this story. Especially the world of vaudeville or stage performers. I wasn’t so much hot over the singing and dancing numbers in the movie, but was intrigued to know that during this time period many women dressed as men and did stage performances as men. There was a whole underground world of performers that crossed dressed and were gay and lesbian that was well known about in certain circles and it seems that it was quite accepted amongst those people, even if against the law at that time. It also portrayed the ugly side of this world as well, which was quite fascinating.

There were some minor instances that portrayed that being gay during these times was wholly unacceptable and apparently, in the book Kitty rejects Nan due to some inner homophobic conflict, I don’t know. However, in this story that is not the case. Although we really don’t know why Kitty rejects Nan, but that she does pay for it emotionally.

One thing I must bring up is that there were quite a few nude scenes as well as sex between Nan and several women during her journey. I thought they were beautifully and tastefully done, very erotic but not in a gaudy, titillating way. I felt that these women really want and have deep need for each other during those scenes. And there is one fascinating nude scene in which Nan is dressed as Hermaphrodites, naked and painted in gold and wearing a strap on as entertainment for her mistress’ party. I thought that the BBC allowing this to be in a TV film was quite bold.

All in all this was a good movie. I’d definitely recommend it to any woman who is lurking about some inner openness to women on a romantic level. It portrays the passion that women can feel for each other in a rather beautiful and erotic way.

I’ll probably get a hold of some other Sarah Water’s books or DVD’s, especially if they are as intense as this story was. Oh and that was another bonus, this DVD had a short interview with Sarah Waters, which was kind of interesting.

Heat level: 3- tastefully done sex with some nudity

Grade: Between A- and B+

Here's a montage of scenes from the movie that show the most poignant moments. Just so you know, it does give away some of the best parts, although it's done to music and it's well worth not watching this if you intend to watch the movie at some point. There are lots of vids of this movie on youtube in case you want more.

25 comments:

Cathy in AK said...

Great review! I don't know if I'll get to watch TtV, but you may have spurred me to re-read it : ) If I recall, the book gives a better understanding of Kitty's reasons for leaving Nan. But then, there is usually more room in a book to explore that sort of thing.

I’ll probably get a hold of some other Sarah Water’s books or DVD’s, especially if they are as intense as this story was.

Do it, because yes, they are : ) Well, the books are. I think I've read everything she has out except for her latest, The Little Stranger, and only watched the film adaptation of Affinity, but they are intense stories. Well researched and full of emotional punch.

Is there a film version of Fingersmith? I loved that book and actually used it as sort of a model for the SFR I wrote. But our stories/abilities don't compare at all. Waters is amazing. Me, not so much : )

LVLM said...

Hey Cathy, yes, I think it was more explained in the book about why Kitty rejected Nan. Sarah Waters did say in the interview that because of the medium of film, certain points that she was able to draw out in the book were lost in the movie. However, she also said that many things were brought more to life because of the texturing and the ability for expression one can't bring out in a book. I mean the look that Kitty gives Nan when she throws her the rose could stop your heart it was so intense and full of meaning.

Not sure that that could be fully expressed through words.

And yes, there is a film version of Fingersmith and my library has it. Woot!

I might watch that one as well, and then read some of her others. I know that one other of her books is on CD from my library also, which is a kind of nice blend between acting and inflection and the actual words from the book. So I might try it as well.

But yeah, I don't think I've read a lesbian story that had the emotional impact on me that this one did. It's very rich and I also think it does romanticize lesbian love as opposed to sensationalizing it, which I rather liked.

M. A. said...

Thanks for the fabulous review, LVLM. The book is on my "wish list," but since I took another twelve hour course load for the summer, I don't expect to have much quality reading time until the fall.

I'm at sixes and sevens as to whether I really want to read Waters' work or not. I've noted people seem to either really like the books or really loathe them. No "happy in between." I'm thinking of reading at least one of her books so I can get a better feel for her or not.

Normally, I'd say Waters was "just what I wanted" to read. The Victorian background and all that. I'm a bit put off by reviewers who feel she borrowed a bit heavily from Dickens, though. We'll see.

LVLM said...

Mia- yeah, I've read all the mixed reviews. I personally can't speak to how she compares or how much she used Dicken's as an influence, because I really don't know as much about historical settings and timeperiods as you do.

I can only speak to how I viewed this film personally outside of any expertise of history or even lesbian relationships.

It is interesting to see what people said about this story. Some were just plain ole offended by the whole lesbian theme and that the title was a euphemism for oral sex.

So you have to kind of sift through where people are coming from.

And your hesitation on reading her is exactly why I decided to go with the film instead. It takes me a long time to read a book and it's a huge investment for me. Watching a 3 hour film, not so much. So it was the perfect way for me to get a taste of what she writes and where she's coming from without a huge time or money investment.

M. A. said...

Mia- yeah, I've read all the mixed reviews. I personally can't speak to how she compares or how much she used Dicken's as an influence, because I really don't know as much about historical settings and timeperiods as you do.

Well, the reviews didn't boher me all that much. What bugged me was I visited Waters' website and read the excerpt of "Fingersmith." Here's a line from the excerpt:

Worse still was the snarling, pink-eyed dog; worst of all was that dog’s master—Bill Sykes, the fancy-man. When he struck the poor girl Nancy with his club, the people all down our row got up... I don’t know if it was the people getting up—which made the gallery seem to heave about; or the shrieking woman; or the sight of Nancy, lying perfectly pale and still at Bill Sykes’s feet; but I became gripped by an awful terror...

Bill Sikes (or Sykes,) Nancy, and even the dog are all characters from the Dickens novel "Oliver Twist."

I'm not put off with Waters for recreating Dickens' Victorian England and including the GBLT elements, but I'm a bit taken aback that she'd "borrow" Dickens' characters for her own novel.

I realize at present a lot of "mashing" and "borrowing" is occuring in the publishing industry. It's not really to my taste when authors do this; it suggests to me the author lacks faith in his/her own work and requires a "gimmick" to sell it to others.

Please don't get me wrong; I'm not writing off Waters for including Dickens characters in "Fingersmith." The book still sounds interesting and I'm willing to give it a chance, but discovering this has dulled my enthusiasm a little.

LVLM said...

Well then, that is kind of interesting. I see your point. Nancy is the main character in Tipping the Velvet as well, although she's called Nan through most of the story. Maybe Sarah Waters likes that name.

And yeah, that would bother me if I read an author who ripped off classic works or others' styles.

I guess in a way then I'm lucky that I'm clueless about Dickens, or life in Victorian England, although I did read him when I was forced to in school.

Maybe ignorance is bliss sometimes. :-) I could enjoy this film without all that info floating in my head to compare to.

M. A. said...

Nancy is the main character in Tipping the Velvet as well, although she's called Nan through most of the story. Maybe Sarah Waters likes that name.

"Nan" and "Nancy" are both derivatives of "Ann/e," a very common English girl's name. It's not unusual Waters would name a character Nancy.

However, we're not just talking about a character or characters sharing a name. In "Fingersmith," Waters is clearly borrowing the "Oliver Twist" characters and includes sufficient information for readers to identify them.

If those names and clues are insufficient, Waters writes (later in the excerpt:)

It was only many years later, when I saw Oliver Twist a second time, that I understood that Nancy of course got murdered after all...

In "Oliver Twist," Bill Sikes murders Nancy (beats her to death.) It's very clear Waters is including Dickens characters in her work, not just utilizing a common name.

Again, I'm not writing Waters off entirely, but I'm not as impressed as I was prior to discovering this. I have more respect for writers who develop their own worlds and characters to stand on their own without relying on another author or characters' popularity to get noticed.

Cathy in AK said...

Yes, LVLM, that look between Nan and Kitty was a heart-grabber. I remember the scene in the book, but the video you posted makes it a much more visual and viseral moment. If I re-read TtV, I'll have that clip in my head, for sure : )

M.A., I'd say Waters uses Dickens's characters as a way to bring some familiarity to the reader. Fingersmith is, after all, a story about thieves and con artists in Victorian England : ) As far as I recall, that's the only direct reference to Dickens. Also, I see the MC watching Oliver Twist as a similar device that an author of modern works might use when refering to some pop culture activity--something happening at the time that reflects the events of the story. Waters may lean on this a bit too heavily, but she definitley takes it to a whole other level.

I'm glad you won't let it deter you from reading Waters. She is worth it. /fangirl moment

Jill Sorenson said...

Is Nan watching a play, or some kind of street performance? Or are Dickens' characters actually IN the books? I agree that it's strange but probably not that unusual. Like, in Dante's Inferno, aren't there a bunch of literary characters? Maybe it's an homage. Waters certainly isn't trying to pass the characters off as her own--they are too recognizable.

I tried to read Fingersmith years ago and couldn't get into it. I've been thinking I should give her another shot. This movie looks gorgeous. Thanks LVLM!

Cathy in AK said...

Yes, Jill, the MC in Fingersmith, Sue, was watching a performance. I would consider it an homage to Dickens too.

Do try to get back into the book. It's very good, with some interesting twists : )

LVLM said...

Jill, no, there are no Dicken's characters or references in the story. I think what people are talking about is that Sarah Waters is kind of taking from Dickens in style and characters because this story is set in the same time period.

But I'm not really qualified to say one way or another about the comparisons.

And as far as reading or watching, you know, there are some books I've not been able to get into in reading, but totally grabbed me in another medium.

I can't read Charlaine Harris' books, but I love her Dead series on audio.

If you're curious then maybe watching the movie versions would be easier or a better experience for you. Sometimes I think how an author expresses themselves is just as important as the content of what they are saying. If their "voice" doesn't fit with you then another's "voice" like a screenplay writer, might work for you.

Jill Sorenson said...

LVLM,

I don't know if Waters' voice didn't work for me, or if I just wasn't in the mood for a literary novel. I'm usually not! I read genre fiction, and romance, almost exclusively. But I love thought-provoking movies, and my library has this--will check it out for movie night w/hubby. :)

Cathy in AK,

Thanks for the clarification. I agree then that there's nothing strange or untoward about the reference. Characters watching a Dickens play is NOT borrowing. It's an allusion.

M. A. said...

Is Nan watching a play, or some kind of street performance? Or are Dickens' characters actually IN the books? I agree that it's strange but probably not that unusual. Like, in Dante's Inferno, aren't there a bunch of literary characters? Maybe it's an homage. Waters certainly isn't trying to pass the characters off as her own--they are too recognizable.



I read the excerpt again. I think the narrator "threw" me in the excerpt. She was describing these well-known characters from "Oliver Twist" as though they were real. This makes sense since the narrator is relating a childhood experience (she perceived the characters as "real".)

So I read the excerpt assuming Waters was including Dickens characters in her story.

I'm not aware of "Oliver Twist" being performed on stage in Victorian England, so it didn't occur to me the narrator was describing a play. I don't think Dickens even wrote the novel until 1835-1840 or so.

My point is, to me at least, it didn't read like homage to Dickens, it read like a clumsy attempt to draw the reader to that period. This isn't necessarily "bad" or "wrong." Obviously in Water's Victorian London, a stage production of "Oliver Twist" exists. I just found it "jarring" because it conflicted with my own historical knowledge.

Again, this wasn't enough to disrupt my interest in Waters' books. In fact, I really like what I've seen of her style and voice. It just struck me as "cheesy" to include recognizable Dickens characters in the work.

LVLM said...

Jill, I hear you on the literary.

This movie though had so much passionate romance in it even if like most literary stories there's a bit of anguish in it as well.

It does end up with a HEA as it were for the main character. So it's not a downer like many literary stories.

It did put me through the ringer emotionally though, so maybe that's why I was so affected.

M. A. said...

Hi Jill

Characters watching a Dickens play is NOT borrowing. It's an allusion.

To each his own. : )

IMHO, a more effective allusion might have been to include an actual existing play in circulation during the time period the story takes place. Like I already said, I found this allusion confusing since, to my knowledge, there waere no stage performances of "Oliver Twist" prior to the musical adaptation "Oliver!"

I would have felt more like I was drawn into "real" Victorian England as opposed to a "fantasy" Victorian England.

Cathy in AK said...

The production of Oliver Twist Sue sees as a child is for the poor/lower income folks in the area, staged in a less affluent theater. Just above a street performance really. Is that realistic to the period? I have no idea. But it worked for me. As it's been said, to each her own : )

M. A. said...

The production of Oliver Twist Sue sees as a child is for the poor/lower income folks in the area, staged in a less affluent theater. Just above a street performance really. Is that realistic to the period? I have no idea. But it worked for me. As it's been said, to each her own : )

Absolutely. I'm still very interested in the book itself. "Affinity" also sounds very intriguing to me.

Maili said...

"There was a whole underground world of performers that crossed dressed and were gay and lesbian that was well known about in certain circles and it seems that it was quite accepted amongst those people, even if against the law at that time."

Lesbianism was never illegal at any time in the UK, though. As for homosexuality, it's a little complicated. It's buggery (of male or female) that was outlawed for centuries (since 16th century?) and it was re-defined as gross indecency (which was used as part of the anti-homosexuality campaign) during mid-1880s 'til 1960s.

So, since Fingersmith was set in early 1860s, there wasn't exactly a law against LGBT at the time.

To be honest, the English law was pretty erratic in this aspect, e.g. it tended to turn a blind eye to those who were openly part of the performing arts (opera, music hall, street performing, theatre, etc.) and the arts (painters, dancers, writers, poets, etc.). It tended to focus on selected people, ranging from rent boys (who were usually accused by their own customers - titled men, usually, who wanted to clean their slates) to certain high-profiled people who were considered political embarrassments, e.g. Oscar Wilde. Women who lived "openly" as lesbians were, if ever, rarely taken in by the law.

I think the English public traditionally and generally accepted LGBT as a "quirk" or "eccentric trait" of the performing arts, in sense of having it as an open secret.

I mean, up to roughly early 1980s, there was a long tradition of "an understanding" between the public and a few entertainers or actors that the public would 'tolerate' their 'lifestyle' (including having a live-in fe/male lover) as long as entertainers didn't officially or publicly acknowledge they were gay, in spite of making double sexual innuendos during their performances.

It was a very peculiar tradition. It's similar to the US military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, but with a warped sense of humour.

That's not to say that it was an easy time (it wasn't), but I thought I should point out the difference. Excuse my cheekiness.

I haven't seen BBC's Fingersmith, but I think I will now. Thanks for the review.

LVLM said...

Maili- you are just a wealth of information. :-) I find this kind of history very interesting.

I read on one review that Queen Victoria insisted that lesbianism didn't exist and therefore lesbians were ignored. If it doesn't exist then it doesn't happen I guess.

But I've never really read the actually historical facts around it. And only know from message boards of m/m historical writers that being gay was outlawed.

The movie really didn't focus on general attitudes against gays other than the sister of Nan rejected her for it. But most of this movie/story took place within the world itself so conflicts about it didn't come up really.

But I love that you came here and gave some facts! It always makes a story more interesting.

lesbrary said...

Aaah, Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith are my favorite books. I thought Tipping the Velvet as the BBC series was a little weird, though. Fingersmith as a movie worked a lot better, in my opinion.

I don't see what's wrong with using a deliberate allusion to a famous work. It's been a literary technique for ages. Sarah Waters was just playing with the fact that most people associate that time with Oliver Twist.

I didn't think Fingersmith "borrowed" from Oliver Twist at all. Then again, I wasn't a fan of Oliver Twist, so I might have just blocked it out. Allusions are part of story-telling tradition.

It's common to hear Fingersmith compared to Oliver Twist, but I think it's like everyone saying ___ is the new Harry Potter or something, just the temptation to compare to something everyone knows. Waters throws in some references to set a mood, but it definitely never seems sloppy or cheezy.

LVLM said...

Lesbrary- My library has Fingersmith, the DVD and I'm going to get it. I've read from many sources that it's a much better movie. Although I really enjoyed this film.

M. A. said...

It's common to hear Fingersmith compared to Oliver Twist, but I think it's like everyone saying ___ is the new Harry Potter or something, just the temptation to compare to something everyone knows.

I admit, I find myself more ambivalent when I hear/read comparisons of one person's work to another famous/popular/classical artist's work.

Regarding Ms. Waters' inclusion of "Oliver Twist" (as a play) in "Fingersmith," I found it confusing. At first I thought she was including the actual characters in her book, which struck me as completely weird. After reading it again I still felt confused because (to my knowledge) there was no dramatization/play of "Oliver Twist" in Victorian England.

That was my impression as of reading the "first pages" of "Fingersmith." I'm not saying Ms. Waters is "right" or "wrong" to include/allude to "Oliver Twist" in any way in her professional publications. All I'm saying is that it confused me and led me to a negative first impression. If the author hadn't been so strongly recommended, and if I didn't recognize the strength and quality of her writing I probably would not be interested in exploring her work further.

Obviously I'm in the minority on the issue, which is fine. Takes all kinds of readers to make a world. : )

I have started reading "The Little Stranger" (only the first few pages) and so far, I'm very fascinated with it. Ms. Waters has a wonderful gift for creating atmosphere.

M. A. said...

Maili:
Lesbianism was never illegal at any time in the UK, though. As for homosexuality, it's a little complicated. It's buggery (of male or female) that was outlawed for centuries (since 16th century?) and it was re-defined as gross indecency (which was used as part of the anti-homosexuality campaign) during mid-1880s 'til 1960s.


LVLM:

I read on one review that Queen Victoria insisted that lesbianism didn't exist and therefore lesbians were ignored. If it doesn't exist then it doesn't happen I guess.


I think lesbianism was something for which lesbians and/or bisexual women could face criminal prosecution, but the charges ended up disguised.

I recall reading one of the earliest cases of a lesbian facing criminal prosecution in the U.S. during the Colonial era (which would have been subject to British law.) The defendants were charged with "lewd behavior each with the other on a bed."

The youngest offender, a fifteen-year-old female newlywed, was "cleared with admonition."

This sort of leaves me wondering if the real issue in the case wasn't bisexuality (both women were married.) It seems more likely the newlywed girl's husband was offended by her bisexual tendencies and sought relief through the court system. I don't say that's true; it's just a suspicion on my part.

Prostitutes were often charged with "lewd behavior" as well. "Lewd behavior" is a more ambiguous charge that disguises the actual crime and protects the guilty (i.e., if a streetwalker is guilty of solicitation, who is/are her partner/s in crime?)

While it's certainly better than facing capital punnishment for "buggery," it was certainly nothing good to be arrested, tried, and convicted for "lewd behavior." Very humiliating, damaging to reputation and to the defendant's employment prospects. Most respectable people would not employ a person suspected of crimes related to prostitution.

During the un-Civil War, Major-General Butler passed an order allowing women "expressing contempt" toward Union troops ocupying New Orleans to be arrested and detained as prostitutes. The infamous "Order No. 21" caused an international scandal. The United Kingdom and France threatened to recall their ambassadors because of it.

My point in all this "circular talking" is that, while lesbianism was politely disregarded as lesbianism, it was still subject to criminal prosecution under a more ambiguous pretext.

Sorry, I've been studying all day. Did I make sense?

Maili said...

@LVMV
Thank you. :) Queen Victoria's role, ah - I think it's largely a myth. I suspect those who were involved with this Act either forgot about lesbians as they were more set on sorting out a "growing social problem" (e.g. there were some British men living openly with male lovers in British India), or chose to ignore it as a preventive measure against women becoming curious enough to explore. But who knows? :D

@M.A.
Yes, it makes sense and you're right. There were certainly loads of gay men and lesbians who were arrested, punished (e.g. pillory) or such on generic criminal charges throughout history. Unfortunately, we don't quite know exactly the circumstances that led them to be arrested. It's quite rare to find any of them to openly admitting to being gay or lesbian, so we won't ever really know. It's mostly all hearsay (via witnesses), anecdotal and such.

If I remember rightly, most documented non-celebrity/arts lesbians - particularly those from well-off middle-class families - were carted off to nunneries or during late 19th century, asylums - as lesbianism was seen as a form of insanity or mental illness. Some of them were committed to asylums by their own spouses, which makes it tougher, e.g. spouses' motives (such as not wanting to obtain a notoriously expensive divorce).

For gay men, though - almost all men arrested and tried on buggery charges were usually the ones who were caught in male brothels during council or police raids. Most sex workers arrested there: were all actually gay or just doing it as a livelihood? What about the rest?
There is a twelve-year-old boy listed as one of the arrested at a male brothel and his occupation is listed as a chimney boy. He claimed he was there to work on a chimney. What was he, really? A sex worker, a member of the domestic house staff, an innocent standby, or a gay youth? We don't know and most likely, never will. Regardless, since he was a boy (which carries same weight as an English female), his testimony was meaningless enough for him to be tried and convicted on buggery charge and sent to prison. I think there's a coda that he was sent to Australia not long after this.

Interpreting historical criminal cases is always a point of debates among social/sex historians, but oh, how interesting it can be.

M. A. said...

Interpreting historical criminal cases is always a point of debates among social/sex historians, but oh, how interesting it can be.

I agree with what you're saying. I think it's almost impossible not to question and analyze cases of this nature.

The "lewd behavior" trial to which I refered occured in the Plymouth Colony in the 1600's. There are many reasons why the women involved might not have been more harshly penalized. (The more senior participant was publicly censured and obliged to confess and repent in public, but faced no other punnishment.)

One very important factor would have been the scarcity of women. Wives were in short supply through much of the Colonial era. It's easier to divorce, abbandon, or insititutionalize an "inconvenient" wife if other potential replacements are readily available.

If a young wife who "strays" into "lewd" behavior is a man's sole hope for heirs and the other assets and comforts related to marriage/family, though ... That puts a whole different slant on things. Perhaps "youthful indiscretion" can be overlooked. I think the legal authorities would have been keenly aware of this, and it may have tempered their judgment. Single, unattached men cannot populate a colony.

In Europe, of course, scarcity of wives and/or female companionship wasn't an issue.