Synopses & Reviews
Nineteenth-century America saw numerous campaigns against masturbation, which was said to cause illness, insanity, and even death. Riotous Flesh
explores womenandrsquo;s leadership of those movements, with a specific focus on their rhetorical, social, and political effects, showing how a desire to transform the politics of sex created unexpected alliances between groups that otherwise had very different goals.
As April Haynes shows, the crusade against female masturbation was rooted in a generally shared agreement on some major points: that girls and women were as susceptible to masturbation as boys and men; that andldquo;self-abuseandrdquo; was rooted in a lack of sexual information; and that sex education could empower women and girls to master their own bodies. Yet the groups who made this education their goal ranged widely, from andldquo;ultraandrdquo; utopians and nascent feminists to black abolitionists. Riotous Flesh explains how and why diverse women came together to popularize, then institutionalize, the condemnation of masturbation, well before the advent of sexology or the professionalization of medicine.
andldquo;Haynesandrsquo;s compelling argument will change the way scholars think, write, and teach about the moral reform movement, antislavery movement, and female sexuality in the nineteenth century. The book is deeply original, persuasive, and rich, and readers will discover something new with each encounter. Riotous Flesh is a revelation.andrdquo;
andldquo;Haynesandrsquo;s book is a rare treat: an important contribution to the interwoven histories of white and black women, antislavery reform, medicine, and sexuality that is well-researched, clearly-argued, and beautifully written.and#160;It will greatly enrich scholarsandrsquo; and studentsandrsquo; conversation about the possibilities of imagining a feminist sexuality in particular contexts of power.and#160;And although one strugglesandmdash;with a nod to her topicandmdash;to exercise appropriate restraint, it is worth acknowledging that reading, and engaging, with Riotous Flesh is also great fun.andrdquo;
andldquo;Haynes has written one of those rare books that provokes me to reinterpret much of what I once understood about antebellum sexual reform. And by thoroughly integrating race into her analysis of sex and gender, Riotous Flesh makes for a compelling and courageous rewrite of nineteenth-century reform. It is also replete with memorable stories dug laboriously out of the archives and honed into well-placed narrative diamonds.andrdquo;
andldquo;Haynes is a discerning researcher, a brilliant interpreter of historical evidence, and a gifted writer. Focusing on a topic still often taboo, Riotous Flesh brings together the histories of sexuality, medicalization, and race in the United States and presents a multifaceted and intricate history that is dazzlingly fresh and revelatory. Riotous Flesh will change not only the way we think about black and white womenandrsquo;s sexuality but how we understand the political culture of nineteenth-century America.andrdquo;
With this colorful collection of documents, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz overturns the monolithic picture of Victorian sexual repression to reveal four contending views at play during the antebellum period: earthy American folk wisdom, the anti-flesh teachings of evangelical Christianity, moral reform grounded in science, and the utopian free love movement. Horowitz's introduction discusses how these diverse views shaped the antebellum conversation about the moral, social, and physical implications of sex and reflected the larger cultural and economic changes of this period of rapid industrialization and urban migration. Helpful headnotes contextualize this selection of hard-to-find documents, which includes scientific manuals, religious pamphlets, advertisements, and popular fiction. Contemporary illustrations, a chronology, and a bibliography foster students' understanding of antebellum sexual attitudes.
The claim that masturbation isnand#8217;t good for you didnand#8217;t just come out of nowhere. As April Haynes shows, a range of feminist reformers in nineteenth century America all agreed that the solitary vice caused untold suffering and death; that women and girls masturbated as frequently as did men and boys; that they did so because they lacked access to sexual information; and that therefore, female sex education would save lives. Haynes, in short shows that nascent feminists remade what might have been a puritanical crusade into a basis for envisioning their own sexual self-masteryand#151;with mixed results, for Haynes also tells the story of how, before the advent of sexology or even the professionalization of medicine, a and#147;great silent armyand#8221; of evangelical female reformers first popularized, then institutionalized, the normative sexual discourse of the nineteenth century.
About the Author
HELEN LEFKOWITZ HOROWITZ (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor in American Studies at Smith College. Her work in American history has explored cultural philanthropy, higher education, the American landscape, and sexuality. She has received fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute and was a Mellon Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. Professor Horowitz is the author of The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (1994), Alma Mater (1993), Culture and the City (1989), Campus Life (1988), and Rereading Sex(2002), which was the winner of the OAH Merle Curti Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history and for the Francis Parkman Prize.
Table of Contents
1. The Gender of Solitary Vice
2. Licentiousness in All Its Forms
3. Making the Conversation General
4. A Philosophy of Amative Indulgence
5. Flesh and Bones