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Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America Hardcover – September 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807050385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807050385
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,190,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This compelling study of 18th-century male gender mores and sexuality is filled with engrossing historical details, demonstrating that 18th-century American ideas about masculinity were complexly tied to religion, economics and the body. For example, a 1746 newspaper article proposed a tax on single people, since they "promise no help to the future generation"; American colonists understood male effeminacy to be as much a sign of wasteful consumption as sexual deviance; and in 1742 Rev. John Cleveland referred to God as "his first husband." Foster, assistant professor of history at DePaul University, has mined a variety of primary sources, including letters and diaries of colonial men, 18th-century Boston newspapers and moral guidebooks such as Daniel Lewes's 1725 The Sins of Youth, many of which have not been analyzed before. He uncovers intriguing and historically important examples that provoke rethinking of the history of gender in America, and he also makes some bold claims—including debunking Michel Foucault's famous dictum that before modernism, sexuality was defined by actions not identities. This is vital reading for anyone seriously interested in American history or gender studies. (Sept.)
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Review

"Zeroing in on the Bay State, Foster uses sermons, newspapers, and court testimony to uncover a frank, often viciously witty discourse on male sexual behavior." —Matthew Price, New York Times Book Review

"This is an innovative contribution to our growing knowledge of sexual identities in eighteenth-century America. Foster frames a discussion of same-sex sexuality in the context of a rich body of evidence for such 'nascent sexual types' as the effeminate fop, the bachelor and the sodomite. The gems he has found in Massachusetts newspapers and court testimony make this an absorbing, well-argued work."—Alfred Young, author of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier

"In this thoroughly researched and well-crafted book, Tom Foster shows convincingly that American notions of sexuality and manliness have long been linked in complex ways. He has uncovered a history that we need to know-a history that exposes the roots of many contemporary attitudes toward masculinity."—Mary Beth Norton, author of Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society

"Thomas Foster's intriguing book reveals what sex meant to eighteenth-century men. He argues persuasively that all matters concerning sexuality, including premarital fornication, marital sex, infidelity, same-sex intimacy, desire, impotency, sexual violence, and interracial sex, were linked to ideals of masculinity. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man shows impressive range."—Elizabeth Reis, author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England

"Tom Foster has given us a bold new interpretation of the importance of male sexuality to Puritan society. Sex, he reveals, was at the center of eighteenth-century understandings of ideal and deviant manhood-presenting a world where ideal manhood was constructed against nascent sexual types of the sexually suspect bachelor, the dangerous black rapist, and the effeminate sodomite - and demonstrating that 'inner states of desire' contributed to the identities early American men fashioned for themselves. Skillfully researched and gracefully written, Sex and the Eighteenth- Century Man makes an important contribution to the history of sexuality and the historical study of manhood in America."—Clare A. Lyons, author of Sex among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution

More About the Author

Thomas A. Foster is on Twitter: @ThomasAFoster. He also posts on early American women's history here: www.facebook.com/WomeninEarlyAmerica and on Twitter: @EarlyAmWomen. Foster is Professor of History at DePaul University. He is the author of Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past and Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America. Foster is also editor of Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality; New Men: Manliness in Early America; Documenting Intimate Matters: Primary Sources for a History of Sexuality in America; and Women in Early America.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D.W. on September 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 open 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 (and factual!) stories about colonial relationships. I loved the stories depicting "courtship" and divorce. It was interesting to see how some of those ideas still carry forward to today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on June 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It seems to me this is a fine introduction to the much-undervalued importance of sex and sexuality to the American revolutionary generation and to our whole racial experience as a nation. The author's theoretical framework seems just about right: Sex along with religion and marriage were conscious tools the colonies used to create social stability; and more importantly was used to define social boundaries and make distinctions of race, class and gender. Indeed, sex eventually became a symbol of one's internal moral state and "emblematic of the moral condition of the society." However, it must be said that even the author admits that Massachusetts was hardly representative of the rest of the colonies. I believe that if there is a failure of this book, it is that it fails to capture the true essence of white maleness, which any elementary Freudian can easily see lies in the fears just beneath the pose of white Alpha male heroism.

And while the author notes that white manhood of that era did not concern itself with its own inner sexual self, is it improper to ask: Is it not true that the individual's inner sexual self, is precisely where the rubber-meets-the-road in such a study? Where the researcher must probe to find out what lies beneath the white masculine pose? Since when, in the Freudian world of modernity, do we accept at face value the subject's self-descriptions of his own behavior -- especially of his own sexual behavior? Has the author ever heard of sexual sublimation and repression? Sexual fantasies? Sexual compulsions? Or, the wickedly destructive combination of sex and power?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E.Dickenson on December 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Enjoyed this enlightening read about sexuality in early America. Well written and entertaining as well as educational. Good for those seeking to better understand the context of the era.The used book was a great price.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a book you read for fun - rather dry and not unlike a thesis. It has been useful to me to get a sense of some social thinking in the 18th centuryn for my own research.
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