Consent: Sexual Rights and the Transformation of American Liberalism

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Whom, over the past two centuries, has society construed as sexual victims ? Where and when did the notion of consent-so crucial for law and politics today-emerge? In this brilliantly insightful work, Pamela Susan Haag traces the evolution of public wisdom on some of society's most private and controversial matters. At once an investigation of social history, popular culture, legal doctrine, and political theory, her book shows how in contemporary America the history of sexual rights is inextricably intertwined with that of liberalism. Haag examines the nineteenth-century obsession with the perils of seduction and twentieth-century disputes over white slavery, arranged marriages, interracial relationships, and rape. The history of heterosexual modernity and identity must, she argues, be viewed as a crucial component of a much larger historical narrative-that of the ways in which individual freedom and citizenship have been continually redefined in American liberal culture. She illuminates the development of liberalism from its classic stage that ended after the post-Reconstruction era to a modern version that came to fruition with the judicial acceptance of the right to privacy. Finally, she shows how debates over the meaning of heterosexual consent and violence contributed to this transformation.