Publisher description for Sex and the eighteenth-century man : Massachusetts and the history of sexuality in America / Thomas A. Foster.


Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog


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Sex is noticeably absent from our contemporary obsession with histories chronicling the founding generations, the Revolutionary War, or the struggles of the early colonists. Moreover, it is rarely associated with colonial men. After all, most would assume that masculinity is the stuff of politics, commerce, or hard physical labor. But Thomas Foster turns this conventional portrait on its head. Vividly using court records, newspapers, sermons, and private papers from Massachusetts, he shows that sex--understood as a mix of behaviors, desires, and identities associated with eroticism--was a crucial component of the 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, ultimately held responsibility for sex within marriage and the sexual behaviors of dependents and household members. Foster then turns to how sex solidified bonds in the community, including commercial ties among men. Starkly challenging current views, the book details early understandings of sexual orientation and a surprising number of stereotypes until now believed to originate a century later, including those of the black rapist and the unmanly sodomite--figures that underscore norms of white male heterosexuality.

As this engrossing study shows, we cannot understand the problems associated with the idea of manhood in America today without coming to terms with our past.

Thomas A. Foster teaches in the department of history at DePaul University. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Men -- Sexual behavior -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
Men -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
Men -- United States -- Social conditions -- 18th century.