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Books, Journals, New Media
September 11, 2002

Sex, History: Sexual Revolution in Early America

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2002;288(10):1294-1295. doi:10.1001/jama.288.10.1294-JBK0911-3-1

This is the first comprehensive history of sexuality in early America. It is based on daunting archival scholarship, particularly in legal records, and attention to the details of social life but is written with such verve and humanity that many of the personages the author considers here come alive on the page. Many of the sexual dramas Godbeer relates will seem familiar to the modern reader: adulterous lovers, the sexual experimentation of youth, the shame of vice revealed for all to see. But early American society was far more densely leavened with the yeast of Puritanism and moral surveillance than America of the 21st century, so that the contrasts with contemporary sexuality emerge in striking fashion.