Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

Sexual ethics are fascinating, aren’t they?  But I got tired of this book anyway.  It was all disorganized.  I was pleased to learn about Sylvester Graham, a completely joyless fellow who advocated bland food, invented the graham cracker, and said that if someone didn’t do something to stop little boys from masturbating, they would grow up and become “a living volcano of unclean propensities and passions”.  I swear.  Those were his words.  I suspect they are burned into my brain forever.

But as for the rest, Ms. Horowitz kept teasing me with the promise of a good story, and then not delivering.  She’d be like “And a fascinating trial ensued!” and move on to something else without saying another word about the fascinating trial.  I believe this is because America didn’t keep good records of trials, so okay, it’s not her fault.  I still really wanted to know more.  Nothing I love more than hearing stories about trials relating to sexual ethics.

Oh well.  On to the next.

  • How could she say a trial was fascinating if there was no further information about it (other than that it took place)? It sounds very frustrating to read.

  • jennysbooks

    Well, she didn’t use the word fascinating. I just find these trials to be fascinating, so I felt completely let down when she would start talking about them – “well-publicized and highly-charged trial of X for the publication of Y”, things like that – and then not go anywhere with it. I always suspected she knew more than she was telling.

  • Mumsy

    Or else she DIDN’T know more than she was telling. I read part of it, and I was mostly struck by how much it sounded like it started out life as a dissertation – bland writing, amateurish organization of the material. She probably got her PhD because everyone was getting so depressed about how boring sex was starting to seem.