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Rape and Sexual Power in Early America [Paperback]

Sharon Block
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 4, 2006 0807857610 978-0807857618 1
In a comprehensive examination of rape and its prosecution in British America between 1700 and 1820, Sharon Block exposes the dynamics of sexual power on which colonial and early republican Anglo-American society was based.

Block analyzes the legal, social, and cultural implications of more than nine hundred documented incidents of sexual coercion and hundreds more extralegal commentaries found in almanacs, newspapers, broadsides, and other print and manuscript sources. Highlighting the gap between reports of coerced sex and incidents that were publicly classified as rape, Block demonstrates that public definitions of rape were based less on what actually happened than on who was involved. She challenges conventional narratives that claim sexual relations between white women and black men became racially charged only in the late nineteenth century. Her analysis extends racial ties to rape back into the colonial period and beyond the boundaries of the southern slave-labor system. Early Americans' treatment of rape, Block argues, both enacted and helped to sustain the social, racial, gender, and political hierarchies of a New World and a new nation.

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Rape and Sexual Power in Early America + Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Early American Studies) + Suspect Relations: Sex, Race, and Resistance in Colonial North Carolina
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Editorial Reviews

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"A tour de force of historical research and cultural analysis.Norma Basch, Emerita, Rutgers University "

Book Description

"Block deftly navigates . . . complicated matters in her thoroughly researched monograph."--Journal of African American History

Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (September 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807857610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807857618
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you wanted to know . . . October 25, 2006
Format:Paperback
Everything you wanted to know about rape in early America but were afraid to ask. Where did the colonists draw the line between consensual and coerced sex? Where did they draw the line between coerced sex and the crime of rape? In answering these questions, Sharon Block shows how race and class determined the power that men had to avoid prosecution, and the power that women had to seek protection. She knows that study of the legal records is necessary but not sufficient, so she explores how early Americans wrote about rape in diaries, fiction, political propaganda, travel writing, and humor. In short: a brilliant book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting and valuable resource October 11, 2009
By Jill
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title is a little provocative, but the core material is factual,
readable, relevant to issues we understand from 'today'. Value this resource.
It's one of a kind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So very happy to not encounter any family names here... January 16, 2014
By SCM
Format:Paperback
I represented victims of sexual assaults in civil actions, until about three years ago. I'd become very disillusioned with what I had been doing.

Something interesting happened as I read this book, that I wasn't expecting. I came away with a sense of pride in the legal profession, for women's rights activists and victims' rights activists, for the powerful legal protections in place for victims today. When I represented victims in civil cases, we were suing for money. Why? Because that's all our courts are set up for; justice is a lovely concept, but try collecting it from a defendant. Money is great, but as I told many clients, it will not fix them. It will not undo the rape. It will pay for therapy and lost wages, but it isn't the end. There is no closure at the end of the court case, just a piece of paper (the judgment) and a check (if lucky).

But.

We've come a long way. Legally, that is. Socially, not so much (if you have ever read the comments following a news story about a rape, you will understand what I mean).

There are still idiots who believe that rape victims can't get pregnant. (In the eighteenth century, it was believed a woman had to climax in order to become pregnant.)

Rape victims still must make the painful decision about whether to come forward (which is very traumatic, even with counselors and support); their reaction to an assault has as much to do with social standing, race, and relative power now as it did in the early Republic.

Then, as now, most women disclose to a trusted female friend first.

Then, as now, many women delay reporting.

Then, as now, many women wonder if they did something to provoke the attack.
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