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Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America

$18.95

“Superb. . . . Full of fresh material, shrewd analysis and sound judgment… Horowitz’s enthusiasm and sense of fun are infectious.” —Los Angeles Times

Probing court records, pamphlets, and “sporting men’s” magazines, Horowitz shows us a many-voiced America in which an earthy acceptance of desire and sexual expression collided with prohibitions broadcast from the pulpit. We encounter fascinating reformers like Victoria Woodhull, who advocated free love and became the first woman to run for president; faddists like Sylvester Graham, who obsessed about the dangers of masturbation; and moral crusaders like Anthony Comstock, who succeeded in banning sexual subject matter from the mails. We also see how newspapers like the Sunday Flash treated prostitutes like celebrities and how the National Police Gazette found a legal way to write explicitly about sex through crime reports that read like gossip columns. Employing an encyclopedic knowledge artfully rendered, Horowitz brings to the fore a wide spectrum of attitudes and a debate echoed in the culture wars of today.

By Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz Published by Vintage, 528 Pages, softcover.