Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
As the first full-length study of the history of sexuality in America, Intimate Matters offered trenchant insights into the sexual behavior of Americans from colonial times to the present. Now, twenty-five years after its first publication, this groundbreaking classic is back in a crucial and updated third edition. With new and extended chapters, D’Emilio and Freedman give...more
Paperback, 3rd, 536 pages
Published December 3rd 2012 by University of Chicago Press
(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
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
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
Mar 21, 2009 Meen rated it 4 of 5 stars · review of another edition 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
Aug 30, 2012 Cassandra rated it 4 of 5 stars · review of another edition
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!
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...moreMore about John D'Emilio...