Moreover, it is rarely associated specifically with early American men. The second and third chapters on manliness and the limits on their sexual behavior are interesting, and I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with the author here. The chapter on the community of men was the most interesting so far. On the other hand, I really enjoyed how Foster connected man-man love with a degenerated male body to eighteenth century minds and tried to parcel out what an attractive male body was again to eighteenth century minds. There were fissures aplenty in the affections of this couple over the many years Adams saw fit to stay away from his Abigail. Lyons, author of Sex among the Rabble:
Only Adams escapes rumors of sexual scandal — even the hint of it — although Foster debunks much of the sentimental twaddle that has been written about the Adams marriage, which contemporary historians have been guilty of perpetuating. One thing I immediately agreed with Foster about was that the current historiographic trend discussing sexual acts versus identities for eighteenth century individuals is off. The gems he has found in Massachusetts newspapers and court testimony make this an absorbing, well-argued work. Alexander Hamilton published a confession of his adulterous affair in hopes that he could forestall the campaign against him by his political opponents. Very little of the George and Martha Washington correspondence survives, and yet biographers confidently pronounce the marriage to have been happy. Moreover, it is rarely associated specifically with early American men. Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man shows impressive range. Yes, rape was considered excessive violence by men, and indeed, African American and Native American men were more likely to be found guilty and hanged for it. 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. I'm disturbed to see Foster note that women used fornication confessions as a means of getting paternal support based on Godbeer's finding. Foster has a wonderful eye for exposing how much fiction there is in biographies of founding fathers — and he names names. Changes freed men, not women, from constraints. Foster argues that our view of colonial America is much too chaste. 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. But, I think Foster underestimates the extent to which patriarchs could assault and coerce sex from servants, slaves and other members of their households with impunity. And, I do not agree that fertility problems were blamed more on men than women. Lyons, author of Sex among the Rabble: In this sense, the biographies themselves become focal points for how Americans consistently reinvent both their understanding of gender and sexuality and national identity. Moreover, I agree that characterizing certain men as excessively sexual was a way of maintaining the status quo. 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. For Americans uncomfortable with alternate renderings of sexuality, this is disturbing stuff indeed. 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. The cover does this book a huge disservice, and devalues its content. The chapter on the community of men was the most interesting so far. Foster rightly points out existing gaps in historical knowledge, and how many popular biographies are reluctant to let these pass by, especially for figures like Jefferson and Washington, whose private lives are largely lost to the historical record. On the other hand, I really enjoyed how Foster connected man-man love with a degenerated male body to eighteenth century minds and tried to parcel out what an attractive male body was again to eighteenth century minds. Ideas about sexual desire were central to characterizations of white women, white men, African Americans, Indians and the white lower class.
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