3pm to 5pm
April Haynes, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Book Event
Between 1830 and 1860, a new fear of masturbation took hold of the United States. Reformers, physiologists, and doctors argued that “the solitary vice” caused illness, insanity, and death. Scholars from Michel Foucault to Thomas Laqueur have traced the origins of this phobia to eighteenth-century Europe and analyzed its implications for “the” liberal subject. Historians of the U.S. have explained the appearance of a new antimasturbation panic in Jacksonian America as the result of a crisis in masculinity.Riotous Flesh contends that women, not men, disseminated a new physiological critique of masturbation in the U.S. Female moral reformers took up the solitary vice in 1834, when crowds of men rioted outside the lecture halls in which women dared to discuss sexual physiology. Convinced that something critical must be at stake in such violent conflicts, they began to fashion their own antimasturbation arguments. By placing themselves as central subjects of this discourse, radical women challenged assumptions of white feminine passionlessness. Their crusade had profound (often unanticipated) consequences for racialized gender, feminism, and sexual regulation in the nineteenth-century United States.
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