As we all know, fairies (or faeries) were very much sought after in the 19th century. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously looked for fairies at the bottom of his and everyone else's garden, and there was a whole bunch of early photographers who claimed to have captured them on daguerreotypes in their dingly dells.
For many, fairies are the ultimate in cute – perfect little replicas of young maidens captured for all time in their innocence, exquisite trinkets to the life.
The problem I have is that there is barely a word in that last paragraph that doesn't worry me.
Fairies are women (usually) with a full womanly shape but they don't grow up – not in size, not in behaviour.
And certainly not sexually.
No fairy in English literature has ever been caught in flagrante delicto screaming “Give it to me, Big Boy, yes, yes, yes!”
Which is why they were a perfect product of the Victorian age where even pianoforte legs had to be covered in case susceptible men became overwhelmed with lustful thoughts at the merest glimpse of them and started imagining their hostess' angelically demure teenage daughter naked and enthusiastically writhing in front of them the other side of their delicately sliced cucumber sandwich (with the crusts removed) and their cup of perfectly brewed Darjeeling tea.
The Victorian age was also the one that housed Bowdler, who 'Bowdlerised' all Shakespeare's plays to remove the slightest shadow of the smut and outright ribaldry that delighted Shakespeare's Elizabethan audiences, thus making his works suitable for the delectation or education) of cultured young women.
But when you have a beautiful, young, enticing all-woman woman who is sweet, passive and asexual, what do you have - other than a fairy?
You have a living doll, Barbie in the drawing room, whatever is the female equivalent of an emasculated male. Someone who is alluring, compliant, sweet-natured.
And the person who wants anybody to be like that is a bit scary, if you ask me.
You also have a blurring of childhood and adulthood, and I think that in relation to a semi-clad fully-developed female form is downright dangerous.
In a recent book, 'Not a Man', M.A. McRae took this thought from another angle. The book is about a young Arabian boy brought up in the slums, and therefore quite likely to die of starvation, who is adopted by a wealthy part-Arabian man and turned into a eunuch (and in the first chapter) to make him forever alluring, sweet-natured and compliant; to retard him, in fact While the man promises to look after him for life, he also fashions him into a victim because such a creature at loose in the world is going to become prey sooner or later.
The book is astonishing. Even the more graphic scenes are written like a prayer, and I feel that prayer is saying 'God forbid!'.
Indeed, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking 'This is really about women and how they are treated in the ideal chivalrous world' but it wasn't until I started thinking about fairies in another book that I realised why.
Fairies (and faeries) be gone! The Campaign for Real Women starts here.