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Taming Passion for the Public GoodPolicing Sex in the Early Republic$
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Mark E. Kann

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814770191

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814770191.001.0001

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The Need to Police Sex

The Need to Police Sex

(p.49) 3 The Need to Police Sex
Taming Passion for the Public Good

Mark E. Kann

NYU Press

This chapter examines why civic leaders and public officials in the early Republic deemed it necessary to police people's sexual behavior. In particular, it considers what made sex a political matter during that period. Benjamin Franklin's generation believed that sex and reproduction were key factors in making a nation strong and durable. This fundamental belief ensured that matters related to sex would be of ongoing interest to the men who established and wielded authority in the early Republic. This chapter begins with an overview of traditional patriarchy and how it relates to emergent liberalism in post-Revolution America, and especially how the nation's early leaders exercised patriarchal authority in a liberal society. It then discusses the state's policing of people's sexual behavior as a way to discipline people's passion, to punish the impassioned, and to teach the self-control needed to harness desire. It also explores the concept of consent as a partner and as a veil to obscure coercion before concluding with an analysis of the practical limits of policing sex.

Keywords:   civic leaders, sexual behavior, patriarchy, liberalism, patriarchal authority, passion, self-control, consent, coercion, policing sex

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