Sexual Revolution in Early America

ISBN-10: 0801878918

ISBN-13: 9780801878916

Edition: 2002

Authors: Richard Godbeer

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In 1695, John Miller, a clergyman traveling through New York, found it appalling that so many couples lived together without ever being married and that no one viewed "ante-nuptial fornication" as anything scandalous or sinful. Charles Woodmason, an Anglican minister in South Carolina in 1766, described the region as a "stage of debauchery" in which polygamy was "very common," "concubinage general," and "bastardy no disrepute." These depictions of colonial North America's sexual culture sharply contradict the stereotype of Puritanical abstinence that persists in the popular imagination. In Sexual Revolution in Early America, Richard Godbeer boldly overturns conventional wisdom about the sexual values and customs of colonial Americans. His eye-opening historical account spans two centuries and most of British North America, from New England to the Caribbean, exploring the social, political, and legal dynamics that shaped a diverse sexual culture. Drawing on exhaustive research into diaries, letters, and other private papers, as well as legal records and official documents, Godbeer's absorbing narrative uncovers a persistent struggle between the moral authorities and the widespread expression of popular customs and individual urges. Godbeer begins with a discussion of the complex attitude that the Puritans had toward sexuality. For example, although believing that sex could be morally corrupting, they also considered it to be such an essential element of a healthy marriage that they excommunicated those who denied "conjugal fellowship" to their spouses. He next examines the ways in which race and class affected the debate about sexual mores, from anxieties about Anglo-Indian sexual relations to the sense of sexual entitlement that planters held over their African slaves. He concludes by detailing the fundamental shift in sexual culture during the eighteenth century towards the acceptance of a more individualistic concept of sexual desire and fulfillment. Today's moral critics, in their attempts to convince Americans of the social and spiritual consequences of unregulated sexual behavior, often harken back to a more innocent age; as this groundbreaking work makes clear, America's sexual culture has always been rich, vibrant, and contentious.
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Book details

List price: $27.00
Copyright year: 2002
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 1/14/2004
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 448
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.298
Language: English

RICHARD GODBEER(Ph.D., Brandeis University) is professor of history at the University of Miami. Godbeer's research and teaching interests center on colonial and revolutionary America, with an emphasis on religious culture, gender studies, and the history of sexuality. His first book,The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England(1992) won the American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch Award for the Best First Book. He is also the author ofSexual Revolution in Early America(2002),Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692(2004), andThe Overflowing of Friendship: Love Between Men and the Creation of the American Republic(2009).

Introduction: Sex, Marriage, and Moral Order in Early America
Passionate Pilgrims
"Chambering and Wantonising": Popular Sexual Mores in Seventeenth-Century New England
"A Complete Body of Divinity": The Puritans and Sex
"Pregnant with the Seeds of All Sin": Regulating Illicit Sex in Puritan New England
Sex and Civility
"Living in a State of Nature": Sex, Marriage, and Southern Degenerates
The Dangerous Allure of "Copper-Coloured Beauties": Anglo-Indian Sexual Relations
"The Cameleon Lover": Sex, Race, and Cultural Identity in the Colonial South
The Sexual Revolution
"Under the Watch": The Metamorphosis of Sexual Regulation in Eighteenth-Century New England
"A Hint to Young Ladies": Courtship, Sexual Danger, and Moral Agency in Revolutionary America
"Martyrdom to Venus": Sexual Freedom in Post-Independence Philadelphia
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