Consent: Sexual Rights and the Transformation of American Liberalism / Edition 1

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Whom, over the past two centuries, has society construed as sexual "victims"? Where and when did the notion of consent—so crucial for law and politics today—emerge? In this brilliantly insightful work, Pamela Susan Haag traces the evolution of public wisdom on some of society's most private and controversial matters. At once an investigation of social history, popular culture, legal doctrine, and political theory, her book shows how in contemporary America the history of sexual rights is inextricably intertwined with that of liberalism.

Haag examines the nineteenth-century obsession with the perils of seduction and twentieth-century disputes over white slavery, arranged marriages, interracial relationships, and rape. The history of heterosexual modernity and identity must, she argues, be viewed as a crucial component of a much larger historical narrative—that of the ways in which individual freedom and citizenship have been continually redefined in American liberal culture. She illuminates the development of liberalism from its "classic" stage that ended after the post-Reconstruction era to a "modern" version that came to fruition with the judicial acceptance of the right to privacy. Finally, she shows how debates over the meaning of heterosexual consent and violence contributed to this transformation.

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Editorial Reviews

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"As this provocative study shows, the idea of rights in the self and bodily integrity is a historically new notion, and the historical construction of women's sexual self is part of this broader process. As Haag skillfully teases out of her 19th- and 20th-century case studies, the notion of personal rights and personhood emerged slowly. . . .This is an excellent book for nonhistorians interested in sexual politics and for historians interested in ideas of selfhood, power, and social/civil rights. It will be a major resource for graduate courses in feminist theory in a variety of disciplines."—Choice. May 2, 2000.

"Haag's historical arguments are fascinating and clearly important, and her work offers crucial insights to feminist theorists and activists and to scholars engaged in writing histories of sexuality. . . This is an important book, and it deserves to be widely read."—Beth Bailey, University of New Mexico. The Journal of American History, December 2000

"A crucial contribution to our understanding of how race, sex, and class are inextricably intertwined in sexual politics"—Renee Heberle, Hypatia, Summer 2002

"With the publication of this book, no worthwhile discussion of the history of heterosexuality, sexual violence, or consent can occur without drawing on Pamela Haag's arguments, which recast these topics in new terms. Her juxtapositions of political and sexual ideologies are breathtaking. She also provides a significant challenge to conventional treatments of American liberalism and individualism."—Martha Minow, Harvard Law School

"This book makes a substantial contribution to perhaps the most important and as yet understudied project among historians of sexuality: the history of heterosexuality. The variety of evidence that Pamela Haag brings to this project-including the records of seduction trials, the works of liberal theorists, and popular fiction-is dazzling."—Regina Kunzel, Williams College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801485183
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Part of "No" Don't You Understand?
Pt. I Feudal to Classic Liberal Precedents 1
1 "Chastity Is Only Good for the Work It Can Do": Seduction, Consent and the Private Self 3
2 "Victim or Victimizer?" The Dilemma of Seduction in Classic Liberal Culture 25
Pt. II Classic Liberal to Modern Liberal Precedents 61
3 White Slavery or the Wages of Sin? The Reinvention of the Privacy and Sexual Violence in the Modern Liberal Context 63
4 "Alleged Husbands" and Bona Fide Cases: Arranged Marriage, Pure and Simple Consent, and the Modern Social Contract 94
Pt. III Modern Liberal Precedents 119
5 The First Sexual Revolution: Two Views 121
6 "Race Lust in Paradise" and "Sex Trouble:" Meanings of Sexual Liberty and Violence in the Early 1930s 143
Epilogue 177
Notes 185
Index 227
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