Guide A Companion to Gender History

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Did Gender have a Renaissance? Gender and the Modern World Gender in the Contemporary World Index show more. Review quote "This book is a reference masterpiece The authors About Teresa A. Meade Teresa A. Merry E. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews.

We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X. Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. Sign up now. Follow us. Chapter One Sexuality Robert A. The Western scholars who have studied the historical and global varieties of sexuality are still tempted to look at the subject through a critical and relativizing lens. This has resulted in an important correc- tive to the temptation to see sex and gender in exclusively binary terms, endlessly Third sex and third gender models and even more complicated schemata have been developed recently to account for the great diversity of body types, gender identities, and sexual practices that have thrived in the West and throughout the world.

Nonetheless, though we are increasingly critical of the old schemata, the historic persistence in most cultures of binary sex and gender categories, which have also been replicated in religion, culture, language, and science requires some explanation. A rich archaeological record of fertility rites and goddesses and the regular equation of planting and harvest activities with human reproduction is testimony to the urgency of these beliefs.

However, there is evidence that suggests that even very ancient societies acted to limit fertility when population outstripped prospects. Since in either case the man- agement of procreation was the key to assuring the prosperity of individuals, kinship groups, and entire societies, a high premium was placed on the procreative capaci- ties of males and females and on the sexual practices that ensured or regulated births.

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It might appear in this schema that sexual capacity is biologically primordial and gender is a secondary, cultural effect, but in fact the opposite is more nearly the case. Despite the many forms it has assumed in human societies, gender appears to be the stable and persistent category while sexu- ality has been more changeable and adaptive.

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In a sense, gender makes a social virtue out of the necessity of biological sex, policing the boundaries of the sexually permissible, nourishing ideals of sexual love, and dictating norms of sexual aim and object. The power of the procreative model of sex has been so great that we are encour- aged to think of sexuality as an innate force or drive favoring heterosexual sexual rela- tions. However, while there is no dismissing the entrenched belief that sexual desire is a natural drive with innate aims and objects, historians of sexuality have found it far more fruitful to think of sexual desire, following the ideas of the French philosopher, Michel 12 robert a.

In this view sexu- ality is a set of negative sanctions and positive incentives enshrined in language, images, and other cultural representations that do not repress or channel desire so much as express it in the form of cultural ideals of love, family, and heterosexual pro- priety, and as revulsion or distaste for aberrations from these norms.

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It allows historians to analyze sexuality as a form of power that operates on and through individuals, exhorting them to culturally admissible ends, but also occasionally arousing in them resistance to or rejection of mainstream norms. Finally, discourse analy- sis reveals the connections between the deeply personal experience of sex and the public domain of state and society. Much of the evidence we have about the early history of sexuality is deduced from what we know about demography and patterns of marital fertility extending back into human prehistory.

Marriage and kinship alliances are ubiquitous institutions in human societies, providing the immediate context for procreation, child rearing, and the transmission of wealth. In historic times, in the ancient West and Far East alike, knowledge of contraception was widespread and pre- sumably widely employed. In both East and West, medical knowledge was a precious resource for understanding methods of avoiding pregnancy or birth, ensuring fertility or the birth of a boy, and enhancing or anesthetizing sexual feeling.

In ancient China and classical Greece and Rome, sexuality was aligned with profoundly patriarchal gender systems that favored viable male heirs and, with some exceptions, regarded women merely as reproductive vessels. Marriage was foremost an arrangement between men for producing male heirs and transmitting property to the next generation of patriarchs. In ancient Greece and republican and imperial Rome, remarkably similar sex and gender systems set the foundations for all later developments in the West. The Greek and Roman male citizen exercised complete legal and material dominion over every- one else in society: women, slaves, and minors.

Women were regarded as inferior beings and enjoyed little autonomy and few rights. An adult male was permitted to penetrate but he risked losing his personal honor if he either allowed himself to be penetrated orally or anally, or willingly assumed the passive, inferior position in intercourse. In ancient Greece an adult male could exercise his right as penetrator on slaves and with boys who did not yet possess their manly honor, especially if the man was a distinguished citizen and the boy from a good family. Scholars have argued that ancient pederasty shared nothing with our modern concept of homosexuality, in which reciprocal penetration occurs between peers, a notion that would have been unthinkable to a Roman vir or a citizen of a Greek city-state.

The concept of ancient pederasty and its putative difference with modern homo- sexuality spawned an important epistemological debate in the s about the meaning and historicity of same-sex love. Men or women in such relationships would not have understood the plea- sures, the dangers, or the sense of identity of modern homosexuals. Sexuality in the ancient world was constrained and sanctioned by social expecta- tions and legal codes, but religion did not play an important role in shaping sexual beliefs or practices.

In varying degrees, and often in the absence of strong central governments, religious elites intervened forcefully to regulate sexual behav- ior, particularly as this related to marriage and legitimacy, but also to acceptable norms of sexual activity. Holy orders in all religions attempted to seal off devotees to sexual temptation, but Latin Christianity in particular drew on classical ascetic philosophy and the Pauline tradition to nourish an ideal of sexual renunciation that sought to extinguish desire altogether and prepare the body for spiritual salvation. Religious and medical authorities also attempted to specify orthodox forms of sexual intercourse that were healthful, procreative, and that positioned women on the bottom.

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Notwithstanding the necessary cooperation of sinful men, womenfolk were regarded as the gravest threat to the sexual order of the medieval era, tempting hus- bands and engaging in prostitution. Though we have evidence that non-marital sex occurred with some regularity, even in the confessional, marriage became an increas- ingly popular institution in the course of the Middle Ages, serving as a growing bulwark against sexual disorder. The period from to was a great period of dynastic state building in world society. With respect to matters of sexuality, the rise of secular authority did not free sexual regulation from the thrall of religion so much as intensify it in the interest of state authority.

In the new Western monarchies and in the Chinese and Ottoman empires, ruling patriarchs exercised absolute sway. Family patriarchs were regarded as virtual extensions of royal power and were given new legal instruments to control their women and children. Rebellious Protestants, meanwhile, went further still in the European and North American domains they controlled, trying and impris- oning adulterers, prostitutes, and unmarried fornicators, and burning sodomites at the stake for their crimes.

Sodomy was a catch-all term that covered all forms of non-vaginally intermissive sex, including masturbation, bestiality, and especially anal intercourse. Hundreds of putative sodomites were executed in this way during moral panics in the Netherlands between and The Spanish and Roman branches of the Catholic Inquisition, with the support of Catholic monarchs, were scarcely less harsh in the policing of their own congre- gants.

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In the midst of the profound political and religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, sexual deviance became a symptom of social rebellion. The long-term effect of these attempts to purify sexual morality in the early modern West was a deeper reinforcement of the only permissible form of sexual expression — marital, procreative intercourse — and a new interest in populations and families by nation-building political elites as key elements in the expansion of state power. Until about the eighteenth century it could be argued that the factors that shaped human sexuality were similar in most human civilizations.

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Governments were mostly sexuality 15 Marriage and sexual relations were still closely linked to the business of making heirs and having children, to eco- nomic conditions and family survival, and the transmission of property. Love in its modern, companionate form did not yet exist; indeed, strong expressions of physi- cal or emotional passion were regarded in all cultures as debilitating and disruptive forms of madness or love-sickness.

In effect sexuality was more a public than a private matter, policed by communities and kin, governed by an economic logic, and divided everywhere into two great categories: procreative and non-procreative. At some point during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a schism appeared that would separate Western and Eastern sexualities for much of the next two cen- turies. Ironically, as individual and private selves, including sexual selves, became more common, scientists and doctors were busy discovering universal laws that ordered and regulated sexual bodies.

In this way too Western and Eastern societies diverged.

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Scholars have shown that anatomical and physiological representations of male and female bodies in Western and Eastern medicine relied on a common, androgynous body with differently positioned but homologous reproductive organs in each sex, the vagina being an inverted and internalized penis and so forth. Physiological dif- ferences were explained by relative humoral balances, heat, or measures of yin or yang. Male and female bodies were described as incommensurable but complementary, with physical attraction depending on the relative differences in masculine and feminine traits.

Unless overcome by abnormal uterine furor, women were characterized as passive, inorgasmic beings, men as aggressive, opportunistic ones. Though punctiliously discreet, far from repressing discourse about sexuality, middle-class people were obsessed with sexual health and hygiene, wrote manuals and tracts, and spoke endlessly about the ways that sexual excess, masturbation, or, contrarily, a misguided abstinence, could lead to weakness, 16 robert a. Sexual segregation and dif- ferentially gendered curricula became the rule in the new public schools, paralleling developments in society at large.

Chief among these were prostitutes, who had always been considered a moral scourge, but who were now accused of spread- ing venereal disease throughout respectable society. Some continental European states regulated and medically segregated prostitutes; even liberal Britain experi- mented with obligatory inspections in mid-century.

Only a few outspoken women, such as Josephine Butler and Christabel Pankhurst, pointed out that there would be no prostitutes if there were no male clients for them. Indeed, ethnic minorities in all populations were presumed to be the most likely recruits for the brothel or per- petrators of violent rape. Ann Laura Stoler has written persuasively about the ways that ideas of sexual purity and the avoidance of external pollutions — a central feature of bourgeois moral self- discipline — were paired with binary opposites constituted by the presumed deprav- ity and uncontrolled eroticism of colonial people of color.

The materiality of race and its palpable appearance in Europeans of mixed parent- age helped establish a representational benchmark in the European imagination of the virtues of purity and the consequences of pollution. The phobic anxieties of Europeans about race and race-mixing, and their resistance to extending full rights to native peoples over the long run of Western imperialism, was an integral aspect of the history of sexuality.

The men who described and catalogued the varieties of sexual life were medical experts whose work coincided with one of the historic crests in the prestige and power of science. Perverse behavior, obstinate and against the grain, is as old as humankind. Part of the explanation for this development lies in the social history of modern cities, in the explosion of modern consumer culture, and the evolution of new forms of individualism.

Tastes, knowledge, and pleasures previously reserved for elites were now available for more general consumption. Excessive heterosexual libido led to nymphomania in women, satyriasis in men. Sadism named by the sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing after the Marquis de Sade was an exaggeration of normal sexual aggression and dom- inance; masochism — pleasure taken in being dominated — was its contrary, passive expression.

This list was long indeed, including all varieties of fetishism, exhibitionism, bestiality, and particularly inversion, which was the preferred term for an unnatural attraction to someone of the same sex. Inversion, which eventually came to be known as homo- sexuality, was the perversion that aroused the greatest concern among specialists and 18 robert a. It is not surprising that the pathologization of same-sex sexuality coincided with its criminalization almost everywhere in the West and, where Western science and medicine were admired, elsewhere as well. Second, the entire logic of the effort to identify and cure the perversions depended on the gender orthodoxies of Western societies.

Women were taking jobs and entering the pro- fessions in increasing numbers, and some were even bold enough to demand equal rights and the vote. Thus, sado-masochistic perversions that characterized women as whip-wielding dominatrix and men as groveling slaves were a direct inver- sion of the gender hierarchy.

But the decline in birth rates, the new attention given to homosexuality, the retreat of many young men into their clubs or colonial service rather than into marriage and family life provoked questions about the quality of masculinity and raised the specter of impotence. IV: — Scholars have speculated that the fact of giving a name and symptomatology to a feeling or disposition that was only vaguely understood might have helped shape self-consciousness about personal iden- tity, making people who engaged in homosexual behavior into homosexuals, lovers of pain into masochists, and so forth.

No doubt the sexual scripts of the new medical discourse shaped, to some degree, actions and expectations in individuals, but schol- ars have persuasively argued for a complex way of thinking about how new socially- constructed identities and tastes interacted reciprocally with medical terminology. This reciprocity seems particularly clear in the case of homosexuality. The medical correspondence that the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing had with his patients sexuality 19 There is no doubt that the discovery of the complex chemical and genetic under- pinnings of sexual desire and the sexual body have markedly weakened the gender orthodoxies inherited from the past by drawing our attention to the extraordinary variability in the anatomy and physiology of sex.

Menarche was converted from a private family matter to a public and hygienic rite and was integrated smoothly into consumer culture. Members of the literary avant-garde like H. Wells and the London Bloomsbury group formed serial heterosexual or homosexual attachments outside marriage, In America, Margaret Sanger became an international celebrity by combining feminism with an international crusade in favor of birth control, not least in order to allow women the opportunity to experience sexual relations without having to be concerned with the dangers of childbirth.

Their advice surely brought many 20 robert a. There is more overlap in these positions than is generally appreciated. It was at this historical juncture that the sexual histories of the West and the East and parts of the southern hemisphere began to reconverge. The modernization process in China, Southeast Asia and throughout much of the colonized world appro- priated some of the conceptual elements of Western efforts to regulate reproduction in the national interest.

By the time of the Communist Revolution, direct state intervention in repro- duction became a brutal fact. Elsewhere in the developing world reproductive technologies was often summarily employed to regulate births or to end pregnancies when an unde- sired female fetus was discovered, sometimes in the name of individual rights, some- times in direct opposition to them.

In Catholic countries with a Latin heritage or new nations on the rim of the Mediterranean, twentieth-century government intervention in the private sphere of family and sexuality has often taken the form of the enforcement of sexual honor.

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Honor cultures have traditionally prized the virginity of daughters and the marital chastity of wives. Women, in these cultures, live under an umbrella of protection assured by fathers, husbands, and brothers, for whom women are a source of dowry revenue or lucrative kinship alliance which had to be defended like any form of prop- erty. Where honor cultures have been historically strong, there has been a very close correlation between gender structures and what is permitted in the domain of sexuality.