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on May 3, 2000
Intimate Matters provides a comprehensive analysis of the history of sexuality in America through an engaging and thoughtful narrative. It is useful for the professional historian--it is well documented with references to existing historical literature on the topic (although it is not original research). However, it also will prove very interesting to the casual reader.
The book itself provides a broad descriptive introduction to the history of sexuality and reproduction from the colonial era to the present, but also presents a clear argument that is easy to follow. The authors claim that sexuality in America has gone through three distinct phases, from family governed sexuality in the colonial era, to privatized but conservative sexuality in the nineteenth century, to our era of comparative sexual freedom, often governed by consumerist values, in the twentieth century. Beyond that, it is simply fun to read.
The book does use language that might be considered objectionable by some, but these words are quoted directly from contemporary historical sources. They help to give an honest impression of the way sexuality was discussed in the past. It is a very good book.
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on October 6, 2013
Many of the other reviewers are marking this book down for being "textbook-like," all the while forgetting it is a history book. It does precisely what it purports to do: regale us with the fascinating sexual history of the United States in great detail. It does not claim to be the next pop-hit or a coffee table book. This is a book for people who want to learn something, and that makes it wonderful.

Beginning just before the foundation of the colonies, this book walks us step-by-step through the history of sexuality in America. D'Emilio and Freedman provide direct primary quotes from the individuals who were experiencing the sexual norms in each time period. They also provide interesting and enlightening anecdotes, court cases, laws, and images which help us to better understand the history of sexuality in America.

This book will help you to better understand the origin of puritan thoughts on sex in America and beyond. It does exactly what it purports to do in the clear, concise prose of historians who know their stuff.
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on December 19, 2012
As the title implies, this lays out a history of sexuality in the US, and I know of no better text if that's your topic of interest.
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on December 14, 2004
D'Emilio and Freedman have provided their readers with a thoughtful, entertaining, and concise history of American sexuality. As their title suggests, their perspective is historical rather than psychological. Like most social histories, "Intimate Matters" adopts a bottom-up approach, choosing to emphasize how groups of people experience (and have experienced) sexuality within their own economic, racial, gendered, and cultural contexts, rather than on the decisions of elite policymakers.

There is plenty of interesting information here, ranging from the sexual practices of the early colonists to grassroots campaigns to censor sexually explicit literature. The authors capitalize on a wide variety of evidence, citing both quantitative and qualitative research to buttress their arguments. "Intimate Matters" is an important contribution to a neglected area of historical inquiry, and offers readers important insight into how economic and cultural forces shape, and are shaped by, human sexuality.
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on May 10, 2016
Legitimately interesting reading. One of the best textbooks ever used in a class. Used for Women's Studies. I sill hold onto it for reference.
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on October 17, 2015
Have to read this for class. Verrrrry long and detailed, but useful information. Pretty interesting as well, told primarily through anecdotes.
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on September 6, 2014
Fantastic quality!! Speedy delivery!
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on October 22, 2004
The authors did an excellent job of writing and presenting an accurate description of sexual practices in our country, including its history - obviously, an extremely difficult undertaking.

In early America, the main deterrent to premarital sex was the fear of pregnancy and the severe consequence of social ostracization.

However, sexual desire was always there for both men and women, regardless of social class or standing. Control over casual sex lay in the hands of family and/or the mores of society. Premarital sex was not permissible for anybody. In practice however, this sexual taboo applied mostly to women.

Men - on the other hand - had choices! They were the creators (always with god's help - of course) and enforcers of the rules and laws governing our social behavior! Talk about one-way streets!

Margaret Sanger (born 1883) was a nurse who fumed over this grossly unfair treatment between the sexes and began the search for a dependable means of birth control. She needed a means or device that women could use to counter their fear of unintended pregnancy. She locked horns, clanged heads with the law (mainly the Comstock laws), and ended up with a number of warrants issued for her arrest. She fled to Europe while a number of her friends and associates kept the ball rolling in search of a positive, reliable means of birth control for women.

In 1915, she announced she was returning to America to surrender and stand trial on the charges against her. As soon as the courts heard of this, all charges against her were dropped; the bureaucrats feared her like no other woman.

For the first time, women got reliable birth control devices, and could begin to enjoy sex outside of marriage, without fear, just as surely as men did.

By the turn of the century, in order to finish leveling the sexual playing field, women needed a place to go and a means of getting there. Two World Wars, one in 1914 and the other in 1941, would provide the answers.
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on October 4, 2006
"Intimate Matters" is a survey of the changing sexual attitudes in American history from the Puritans through the 19th century to our contemporary society. I prefer books that contain a depth of knowledge but that are also well written enough to be a pleasure to read. Bernard Lewis and Karen Armstrong are two respected scholars who manage to both write well and maintain their academic integrity. In contrast, "Intimate Matters" contains the dry prose that is often associated with academic works that fail to appeal to a broader audience. Of course, the subject itself is inherently interesting and I did learn some compelling new historical facts. For example, some of the Puritans actually used the death penalty to punish pre-martial sex, non-reproductive sexual acts and homosexualty.

I know that academics need to maintain objectivity and so I didn't necessarily expect this book to be in praise of sexual liberation. However, the authors seem to take a sex negative point of view which I found troubling. For example, they describe the harsh punishments of the Puritans without condemnation. But, when discussing the relative sexual freedom that came with urbanization, they lament how women were now becoming less "protected" from the sexual attention of men. They make the same point while criticizing the sexual revolution of the 1960's. I believe that women are strong and intelligent enough to make their own decisions and that they don't need to be "protected" by a sexually repressive society. So I find the authors' perspective that sexual liberation places women in danger to be insulting and patronizing.

The book does contain some worthwhile information on the history of American sexuality. But I would recommend finding a book that is better written and with a more positive attitude towards the benefits of sexual freedom.
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on October 22, 2008
Published in 1988, this is fundamentally a textbook-like tome with little direct application to the daily joys and trials of marriage and family life. It is well footnoted and indexed, though marriage and divorce are fundamentally seen as "choices" and there are no index entries for "vows," "commitment," or "fun."
There is no heart to this book and no information useful for the establishment of a healthy marriage and no information for correction in times of difficulty. (It may never have occurred to the authors that married folks have far more sex than the unmarried.) All in all, quite sterile--somewhere between an anatomy/physiology text and veterinarian studies.
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