Society was so cautious about giving sexual freedom to women, because it thought that the fundamentals of family life would crumble with female sexual freedom. Great stress was laid upon marriage and a woman without marriage was abhorred.
"Taught that a husband was essential to their existence, and all their training directed to the art of catching one, they had the choice of being relegated to the ranks of abnormality if they did not marry, or being forced into what many regarded as degrading sexual competition, in which the losers faced economic hardship as well as social obliteration," Foster (1985, p.7).
Condition of women was difficult and constricted. Either they were idealised or discarded. There was never a middle path. It was an age of transition from medieval to modern times when the prudish society was at the throes of giving birth to a more modern social order. The Victorian society is described beautifully here:
"Middle-class outlook: Protestant work ethic, pragmatism, respectability, sobriety, frugality, industry, chastity, honesty, independence, etc. Commitment to the idea of pursuing social duty instead of personal pleasure Struggle over role of women: icons of ideal English daughter, wife, & mother vs. fallen woman, spinster, New Woman, femme fatale" http://www.public.iastate.edu/khickok/victoriannovel.html
The sexual morality of the era was rooted in late 18th and early 19th century ...