Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America

Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America

Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America

The first full length study of the history of sexuality in America, Intimate Matters offers trenchant insights into the sexual behavior of Americans, from colonial times to today. D’Emilio and Freedman give us a deeper understanding of how sexuality has dramatically influenced politics and culture throughout our history.

“The book John D’Emilio co-wrote with Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters, was cited by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy when, writing for a majority of court on July 26, he and his colleagues struck down a Texas law criminalizing sodomy. The decision was widely hailed as a victory for gay rights—and it derived in part, according to Kennedy’s written comments, from the information he gleaned from D’Emilio’s book, which traces the history of American perspectives on sexual relationships from the nation’s founding through the present day. The justice mentioned Intimate Matters specifically in the court’s decision.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

“Fascinating. . . . [D’Emilio and Freedman] marshall their material to chart a gradual but decisive shift in the way Americans have understood sex and its meaning in their lives.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Book Review

“With comprehensiveness and care . . . D’Emilio and Freedman have surveyed the sexual patterns for an entire nation across four centuries.” —Martin Bauml Duberman, Nation

Intimate Matters is comprehensive, meticulous and intelligent.” —Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

“This book is remarkable. . . . [Intimate Matters] is bound to become the definitive survey of American sexual history for years to come.” —Roy Porter, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

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3 Comments so far »

  1. Kathy Cooke said,

    Wrote on June 14, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Entertaining and Informative, May 3, 2000
    By 

    This review is from: Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (Paperback)

    Intimate Matters provides a comprehensive analysis of the history of sexuality in America through an engaging and thoughtful narrative. It is useful for the professional historian–it is well documented with references to existing historical literature on the topic (although it is not original research). However, it also will prove very interesting to the casual reader.

    The book itself provides a broad descriptive introduction to the history of sexuality and reproduction from the colonial era to the present, but also presents a clear argument that is easy to follow. The authors claim that sexuality in America has gone through three distinct phases, from family governed sexuality in the colonial era, to privatized but conservative sexuality in the nineteenth century, to our era of comparative sexual freedom, often governed by consumerist values, in the twentieth century. Beyond that, it is simply fun to read.

    The book does use language that might be considered objectionable by some, but these words are quoted directly from contemporary historical sources. They help to give an honest impression of the way sexuality was discussed in the past. It is a very good book.

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  2. R. Maynard said,

    Wrote on June 14, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Intimate Matters, April 30, 2012
    By 
    Laura A. Thomas “Ao Starseed” (Portland,OR) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    This is a compilation of the history of sexual matters and mannerisms in America from the very beginning of our country to the present. Written so as to make matters understandable and not just a dry, boring history book,

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  3. Anonymous said,

    Wrote on June 14, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    This book is a remarkable piece of work!, October 22, 2004
    By 
    R. Maynard (Epsom, New Hampshire United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (Paperback)

    The authors did an excellent job of writing and presenting an accurate description of sexual practices in our country, including its history – obviously, an extremely difficult undertaking.

    In early America, the main deterrent to premarital sex was the fear of pregnancy and the severe consequence of social ostracization.

    However, sexual desire was always there for both men and women, regardless of social class or standing. Control over casual sex lay in the hands of family and/or the mores of society. Premarital sex was not permissible for anybody. In practice however, this sexual taboo applied mostly to women.

    Men – on the other hand – had choices! They were the creators (always with god’s help – of course) and enforcers of the rules and laws governing our social behavior! Talk about one-way streets!

    Margaret Sanger (born 1883) was a nurse who fumed over this grossly unfair treatment between the sexes and began the search for a dependable means of birth control. She needed a means or device that women could use to counter their fear of unintended pregnancy. She locked horns, clanged heads with the law (mainly the Comstock laws), and ended up with a number of warrants issued for her arrest. She fled to Europe while a number of her friends and associates kept the ball rolling in search of a positive, reliable means of birth control for women.

    In 1915, she announced she was returning to America to surrender and stand trial on the charges against her. As soon as the courts heard of this, all charges against her were dropped; the bureaucrats feared her like no other woman.

    For the first time, women got reliable birth control devices, and could begin to enjoy sex outside of marriage, without fear, just as surely as men did.

    By the turn of the century, in order to finish leveling the sexual playing field, women needed a place to go and a means of getting there. Two World Wars, one in 1914 and the other in 1941, would provide the answers.

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