The Politics of Sexual Restraint: Debates over Chastity in America, 1780-1860.

Show simple item record French, Kara Maureen en_US 2013-09-24T16:07:09Z 2013-09-24T16:07:09Z 2013 en_US 2013 en_US
dc.description.abstract Entitled The Politics of Sexual Restraint: Debates Over Chastity in America, 1780-1860, my dissertation highlights three prominent groups who were advocates of sexual restraint in early-nineteenth century America: Shakers, Catholic priests and nuns, and followers of sexual reformer Sylvester Graham. In the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War, mobs attacked Shaker villages, burned Catholic convents, and rioted against Graham’s lectures. Discussions of celibacy and sexual self-control seemingly provoked “sex panics” about people who were not having sex. Advocates for celibacy and chastity faced hostility in the form of armed violence, prejudicial lawsuits and legislation, as well as print attacks from editors and pamphleteers. For these Americans, sexual restraint was nearly, if not as, disturbing as sexual excess. The question is why. By promoting sexual restraint, the Shakers, Catholic priests and nuns, and reformers I examine de-naturalized the assumed naturalness of sex within marriage. In doing so, they undermined the sexual foundation of middle-class identity. Controversy around the sexual practices of Shakers, Catholic priests and nuns, and Grahamite reformers arose out of the particular social, cultural, and economic conditions of the first half of the nineteenth century. Revolutions in print and publishing, in consumer goods and services, and in travel and transportation created a context that allowed these groups to emerge as sexual minorities. These innovations also provided advocates of sexual restraint mediums to engage with their critics and promote their sexual philosophies to a curious and often hostile public. The predisposition to categorize those who practiced sexual restraint as somehow “other” further contributed to the development of celibacy as a distinct sexual identity in the antebellum era. Investigating sexual restraint gives a more comprehensive picture of the sexual landscape of early America. It allows us to better envision how Americans in the nineteenth century understood sexuality and its relationship to concepts of “natural,” “normal,” and even humanness itself. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject History of Sexuality en_US
dc.subject United States History en_US
dc.subject Celibacy en_US
dc.subject Shakers en_US
dc.subject Anti-Catholicism en_US
dc.subject Print Culture en_US
dc.title The Politics of Sexual Restraint: Debates over Chastity in America, 1780-1860. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename PhD en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline History and Women's Studies en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Kelley, Mary C. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Wingrove, Elizabeth R. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Juster, Susan M. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Cook Jr, James W. en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel American and Canadian Studies en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel History (General) en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Women's and Gender Studies en_US
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Humanities en_US
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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