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Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
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Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  481 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The 1st full length study of the history of American sexuality, Intimate Matters offers trenchant insights into sexual behavior from colonial times to today. D'Emilio & Freedman give a deeper understanding of how sexuality has dramatically influenced politics & culture throughout history.
"The book John D'Emilio co-wrote with Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters,
Published 1989 by Harper Perennial (first published April 1st 1988)
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A thorough overview of the main trends in America's tortured ideas about s*e*x*---not so much the down & dirty but concepts of gender, permissiveness, gaydom, and youth. As with most histories than span several centuries, the narrative goes broad rather than deep; occasionally you sense some repetition of ideas, which is inevitable, I suppose. Yet I found the final section on the 20th century, "The Rise and Fall fo Sexual Liberalism," fascinating. There's a great section on Margaret Sanger, ...more
Despite getting quite a number of raised eyebrows when people caught sight of me reading this, it's not at all prurient or salacious. It's actually rather fascinating, despite the fact that the title really ought to be (A Mostly Heterosexual) History of Sexuality in America. There is very little in here about asexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, which are mostly mentioned only in passing or in opposition to the prevailing heterosexual norm. I can understand why, to a certain extent, as the ov ...more
Lilith Noir
This book was published over 25 years ago, but it's still fascinating and quite relevant.

It's a broad survey of sexual attitudes and behaviors In the US, starting with the colonial era (and ending in the 1980's, since that is when it was written). It seems that things were much different than what we imagine, back then. The Puritans were not nearly as staid as you might think! (The opinion I seem to hear a lot is that basically everyone lived in a 1950's style family unit with 1950's style mora
Erik Graff
Apr 01, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is a dry, academic study of sexual behavior in what is now the USA from the colonial period until the time of publication (1988). Among its virtues are efforts to distinguish between regions, races and classes. Among its deficits are the introductions and conclusions appended to its sections and subsections, all of which are yawningly abstract summaries of what is to come or of what has just happened. This may be in accord with any number of style books, but the way these authors handle it ...more
The chronological span of this book is remarkable, beginning the study in Colonial America and bringing it to our contemporary culture in the recent past (2010s). This survey traces changes in perception and expression of American sexuality, as it relates to changes in politics, economy, and family structures. A strength of the book is the authors' attention to the shifting dynamics of feminine sexual politics, wherein women went from being denied their sexuality toward the sexual objectificatio ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Rooks marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've read most of this in excerpts, but I should sit and redo it all of a piece.
Adam Foley
A classic work of sexuality history!
Mar 21, 2009 Meen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone should read it. Get informed people.
Recommended to Meen by: Karen Cox
This edition ends in the '80s, so it was kinda depressing in the final chapter knowing how political conservativism, particularly its religious fundie aspects, ended up becoming dominant and rolling back many of the gains of the feminist and gay rights movements. Their ideology is so fear-based, so NOT based in rationality or factual evidence. I feel like I can breathe a little now that they have lost a lot of their power, but damn, we really gotta remain vigilent. There's no reasoning with peop ...more
Good synthesis. Nicely organized, and easy to read. The only reason that I wouldn't give it 5-stars is because only really highlighted mainstream sexuality and the struggle to understand/maintain those norms (though the authors are careful to include gay/lesbian history as well). I wish there had been more discussion of the taboo, juxtaposed with their discussion of the norms. I will likely hunt down a copy of the 2nd edition to fill the void left by their hasty epilogue in the 1st edition that ...more
Really thorough history of marriage and sex 16th-Century thru 20th-Century. Very enlightening, especially around intersections of race and class and how control of sexuality has been used as a tool to maintain hierarchies in the United States. Also really enlightening history on the ever-changing meaning of marriage among differing groups and religions. Could have been more nuanced around some of the feminist history but all in all, really great book. Highly recommend it!
I read the older edition when it came out (I think it was a QPB selection) and then read it again for my comprehensive exams. I enjoyed it both times. A great overview of sexuality in America.
freaking awesome. really appreciate that it tries not to be just a sexual history of the white middle class, but a lot of this is buried
Kat Becker
Should be required reading for anyone interested in human sexuality. Really challenged some misconceptions.
Still the go-to book on the history of sexuality...lays it all out there and analyzes it brilliantly.
A very important book for anyone interested in how sexuality has shaped the history of our country.
Very interesting book--read for class, but would have enjoyed reading it anyway.
I am so excited there is a new edition. Probably more than I should be.
May 27, 2013 Emily marked it as just-cannot-finish  ·  review of another edition
I learned most of this already in my undergrad WS classes.
jessicamax stein
This book is, um, seminal.
A ground breaker!
Shelby Usrey
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What are some of the key points in this book? 1 2 Apr 11, 2012 06:23PM  
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  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
  • Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940
  • Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America
  • Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation
  • Sex in History
  • Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest
  • When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex--and Sex Education--Since the Sixties
  • The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America
  • The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government
  • Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
  • Virgin: The Untouched History
  • The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
  • Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
  • City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860
  • When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
  • Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia
  • A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis
John D'Emilio is a professor of history and of women's and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has taught previously at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1982, where his advisor was Kenneth T. Jackson. A Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow from 1995 to 1997 ...more
More about John D'Emilio...
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights

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