A lively, scholarly, and often startling exploration of nineteenth-century American attitudes toward sexuality—what we felt, thought, wrote, and said about the human body; about love, lust, intercourse, masturbation, contraception, and abortion; about the power of sexual words and images.
Horowitz shows us a many-voiced America in which an earthy acceptance of desire and sexual expression collided with the prohibitions broadcast from the pulpit and the printed page by evangelical Christian elements. She describes the new sensibility of agitators like Victoria Woodhull placing sex at the center of life, visionaries like Robert Owen and Frances Wright espousing free love, faddists like Sylvester Graham obsessing about the dangers of masturbation, a country physician writing the first scientifically grounded book on contraception, the lively new commerce in erotica—including newspapers such as the Sunday Flash and, most famous, the National Police Gazette (which featured a legal way to write explicitly about sex). We see a rising opposition instigated by conservative New Yorkers who feared the corruption of young male clerks living in boardinghouses, deprived of parental influence. And we see how this movement led into an era of suppression—pitting Anthony Comstock, who succeeded in banning sexual subject matter from the mails, against the new dissenters committed to free speech—an early battle of the national cultural war that continues to this day.
About Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz
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Published September 3, 2002
Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical.