Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century

Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century

Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century

Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century

Synopsis

Love in all its cultural and personal complexity is the focus of this book. While scholars of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century homoerotic culture have tended to focus on sexual behavior and the much-maligned figure of the sodomite, George E. Haggerty argues that the concepts of love and emotional intimacy offer a more useful perspective for understanding male-male relations of the time.

Haggerty considers male "identities" of many kinds: heroic friends, as found in seventeenth-century French romance and Restoration tragedy, and personal friends, as in the erotic relationships of Gray, Walpole, and West; fops and beaus, as depicted in Restoration and early eighteenth-century comedy and various satirical portraits; effeminate sodomites and mollies depicted in literature and sodomy trial accounts throughout the period; men of feeling and other figures in whom sensibility and sexuality are vividly interconnected. He also discusses libertines and sexual aggressors, especially as depicted in the pages of Gothic fiction.

Excerpt

I link gender and sexuality in the title of this study because eighteenthcentury gender studies have only begun to examine the varieties of masculinity and the ways in which gender determines—pre-determines, as it were—sexual behavior. Those of us involved in the history and theory of sexuality may all have experienced the relentless attempts of colleagues and administrators to euphemize lesbian or gay studies as gender studies—in class assignments, in hiring, and in promotion letters. In eighteenth-century studies, however, gender is at least as rich and promising a rubric under which to study the codification of cultural roles as any. As various recent critics have shown, gender is a contested concept throughout the eighteenth century, and a great deal of cultural complexity can be unraveled as questions of gender construction are answered. As Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub say in their introduction to Body Guards, “the boundary between biological sex, gender identity, and erotic practice” is “unsettlingly fluid.”

The term sexuality itself had no currency in the eighteenth century; and most historians of sexuality now accept Foucault’s much discussed observation that: “the psychological, psychiatric, medical category of homosexuality was constituted from the moment it was categorized—Westphal’s famous article of 1870 on ‘contrary sexual sensations’ can stand as its date of birth—less by a type of sensations than by a certain quality of sexual sensibility, a certain way of inverting the masculine and feminine in oneself.”

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