Catalogue


Sex and the eighteenth-century man : Massachusetts and the history of sexuality in America /
Thomas A. Foster.
imprint
Boston : Beacon Press, 2006.
description
xx, 223 p.
ISBN
0807050385 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Boston : Beacon Press, 2006.
isbn
0807050385 (hardcover : alk. paper)
contents note
"He is not a man, that hath not a woman" -- Sex and the shattering of household order -- Rape and seduction : masculinity, misogyny, and male sexuality -- Sex and the community of men -- "Half-men" : bachelors, effeminacy, and sociability -- "When day and night together move" : men and cross-cultural sex -- "The paths of monstrous joy".
general note
Includes bibliographical references and index.
catalogue key
5942071
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Thomas A. Foster teaches in the department of history at DePaul University
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2006-07-24:
This compelling study of 18th-century male gender mores and sexuality is filled with engrossing historical details, demonstrating that 18th-century American ideas about masculinity were complexly tied to religion, economics and the body. For example, a 1746 newspaper article proposed a tax on single people, since they "promise no help to the future generation"; American colonists understood male effeminacy to be as much a sign of wasteful consumption as sexual deviance; and in 1742 Rev. John Cleveland referred to God as "his first husband." Foster, assistant professor of history at DePaul University, has mined a variety of primary sources, including letters and diaries of colonial men, 18th-century Boston newspapers and moral guidebooks such as Daniel Lewes's 1725 The Sins of Youth, many of which have not been analyzed before. He uncovers intriguing and historically important examples that provoke rethinking of the history of gender in America, and he also makes some bold claims including debunking Michel Foucault's famous dictum that before modernism, sexuality was defined by actions not identities. This is vital reading for anyone seriously interested in American history or gender studies. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Zeroing in on the Bay State, Foster uses sermons, newspapers, and court testimony to uncover a frank, often viciously witty discourse on male sexual behavior." Matthew Price, New York Times Book Review "This is an innovative contribution to our growing knowledge of sexual identities in eighteenth-century America. Foster frames a discussion of same-sex sexuality in the context of a rich body of evidence for such 'nascent sexual types' as the effeminate fop, the bachelor and the sodomite. The gems he has found in Massachusetts newspapers and court testimony make this an absorbing, well-argued work."Alfred Young, author of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier "In this thoroughly researched and well-crafted book, Tom Foster shows convincingly that American notions of sexuality and manliness have long been linked in complex ways. He has uncovered a history that we need to know-a history that exposes the roots of many contemporary attitudes toward masculinity."Mary Beth Norton, author of Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society "Thomas Foster's intriguing book reveals what sex meant to eighteenth-century men. He argues persuasively that all matters concerning sexuality, including premarital fornication, marital sex, infidelity, same-sex intimacy, desire, impotency, sexual violence, and interracial sex, were linked to ideals of masculinity. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man shows impressive range."Elizabeth Reis, author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England "Tom Foster has given us a bold new interpretation of the importance of male sexuality to Puritan society. Sex, he reveals, was at the center of eighteenth-century understandings of ideal and deviant manhood-presenting a world where ideal manhood was constructed against nascent sexual types of the sexually suspect bachelor, the dangerous black rapist, and the effeminate sodomite - and demonstrating that 'inner states of desire' contributed to the identities early American men fashioned for themselves. Skillfully researched and gracefully written, Sex and the Eighteenth- Century Man makes an important contribution to the history of sexuality and the historical study of manhood in America."Clare A. Lyons, author of Sex among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, July 2006
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
Sex is noticeably absent from our contemporary obsession with histories chronicling the founding generations, the Revolutionary War, or the struggles of the early colonists. Moreover, it is rarely associated with colonial men. After all, most would assume that masculinity is the stuff of politics, commerce, or hard physical labor. But Thomas Foster turns this conventional portrait on its head. Vividly using court records, newspapers, sermons, and private papers from Massachusetts, he shows that sex--understood as a mix of behaviors, desires, and identities associated with eroticism--was a crucial component of the colonial understanding of the qualities considered befitting for a man. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man begins by examining how men, as heads of households, ultimately held responsibility for sex within marriage and the sexual behaviors of dependents and household members. Foster then turns to how sex solidified bonds in the community, including commercial ties among men. Starkly challenging current views, the book details early understandings of sexual orientation and a surprising number of stereotypes until now believed to originate a century later, including those of the black rapist and the unmanly sodomite--figures that underscore norms of white male heterosexuality. As this engrossing study shows, we cannot understand the problems associated with the idea of manhood in America today without coming to terms with our past. "This is an innovative contribution to our growing knowledge of sexual identities in eighteenth-century America. Foster frames a discussion of same-sex sexuality in the context of a rich body of evidence for such 'nascent sexual types' asthe effeminate fop, the bachelor and the sodomite. The gems he has found in Massachusetts newspapers and court testimony make this an absorbing, well-argued work." --Alfred Young, author of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier "In this thoroughly researched and well-crafted book, Tom Foster shows convincingly that American notions of sexuality and manliness have long been linked in complex ways. He has uncovered a history that we need to know--a history that exposes the roots of many contemporary attitudes toward masculinity." --Mary Beth Norton, author of Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society "Thomas Foster's intriguing book reveals what sex meant to eighteenth-century men. He argues persuasively that all matters concerning sexuality, including premarital fornication, marital sex, infidelity, same-sex intimacy, desire, impotency, sexual violence, and interracial sex, were linked to ideals of masculinity. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man shows impressive range." --Elizabeth Reis, author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England "Tom Foster has given us a bold new interpretation of the importance of male sexuality to Puritan society. Sex, he reveals, was at the center of eighteenth-century understandings of ideal and deviant manhood--presenting a world where ideal manhood was constructed against nascent sexual types of the sexually suspect bachelor, the dangerous black rapist, and the effeminate sodomite - and demonstrating that 'inner states of desire' contributed to the identities early American men fashioned for themselves. Skillfully researched and gracefully written, Sex and the Eighteenth- Century Man makes an important contribution to the history of sexuality and the historical study of manhood in America." --Clare A. Lyons, author of Sex among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution "Such rich rhetorical material makes it clear that Foster chose his evidence with an eye toward not only illuminating readers, but--rarity of rarities in the historical profession--entertaining them as well." --The Texas Observer, review in the January 12th issue Thomas A. Foster teaches in the de
Main Description
With few exceptions, sex is noticeably absent from popular histories chronicling colonial and Revolutionary America. Moreover, it is rarely associated specifically with early American men. This is in part because sex and family have traditionally been associated with women, while politics and business are the historic province of men. But Thomas Foster turns this conventional view on its head. Through the use of court records, newspapers, sermons, and private papers from Massachusetts, he vividly shows that sexthe behaviors, desires, and identities associated with eroticism was a critical component of colonial understanding of the qualities considered befitting for a man. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man begins by examining how men, as heads of households, held ultimate responsibility for sexnot only within their own marriages but also for the sexual behaviors of dependents and members of their households. Foster then examines the ways sex solidified bonds in the community, including commercial ties among men, and how sex operated in courtship and social relations with women. Starkly challenging current views about the development of sexuality in America, the book details early understandings of sexual identity and locates a surprising number of stereotypes until now believed to have originated a century later, among them the black rapist and the unmanly sodomite, figures that serve to reinforce cultural norms of white male heterosexuality. As this engrossing and surprising study shows, we cannot understand manliness today or in our early American past without coming to terms with the oft-hidden relationship between sex and masculinity.
Table of Contents
"He is not a man, that hath not a woman"p. 3
Sex and the shattering of household orderp. 23
Rape and seduction : masculinity, misogyny, and male sexualityp. 53
Sex and the community of menp. 77
"Half-men" : bachelors, effeminacy, and sociabilityp. 101
"When day and night together move" : men and cross-cultural sexp. 129
"The paths of monstrous joy"p. 155
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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