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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 sex—the 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 sex—not 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.
Posted May 2, 2013
This monograph is a much needed addition to the history of America. Foster opens up his work explaining that sex in early America did in fact occur, although one would not realize it from the texts taught in most U.S. History courses. I chose Foster's book for a critical book review in a History of Sexuality university course. It was an engaging read that did not speak over my head, nor was it too simplistic. Foster's argument is sound and his source material is rich and creative. With exerpts from diaries, letters, official documents, and newsprint Foster shows the depthfulness of male sexuality in eighteenth century America. Beyond simply telling the reader that men in eighteenth century America had sex, Foster shows the reader how the sexuality of these men connected to their political, economic, and social lives. Highly recommended read for students and professors of American history...and anyone else interested in learning what the founding fathers were up to behind close doors.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2006
This is a smart and interesting account of what colonial men thought about sex and how it was part of their daily lives and their identities as men. Eighteenth-century people were surprisingly openly about sex. This was definitely not part of my college history class! The book covers a lot of topics including marriage, homosexuality, race, and courtship. I recommend this book to people interested in the history of homosexuality, sexuality, or colonial America. I learned a lot about eighteenth century America while being entertained by interesting stories about colonial relationships. I love the stories depicting 'courtship' and divorce. It was interesting to see how some of these ideas still carry forward to today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.