The New Logic of Sexual Violence in Enlightenment France
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This book argues that rape as we know it was invented in the eighteenth century, examining texts as diverse as medical treatises, socio-political essays, and popular novels to demonstrate how cultural assumptions of gendered sexual desire erased rape by making a women’s non-consent a logical impossibility.
The Enlightenment promotion of human sexuality as natural and desirable required a secularized narrative for how sexual violence against women functioned. Novel bio-medical and historical theories about the "natural" sex act worked to erase the concept of heterosexual rape. McAlpin intervenes in a far-ranging assortment of scholarly disciplines to survey and demonstrate how rape was rationalized: the history of medicine, the history of sexuality, the development of the modern self, the social contractarian tradition, the global eighteenth century, and the libertine tradition in the eighteenth-century novel.
This intervention will be essential reading to students and scholars in gender studies, literature, cultural studies, visual studies, and the history of sexuality.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Rise of the Modern Self and the Erasure of Female Sexual Autonomy
Part I. Naturalizing Coquetry: The Scientific Argument for Female Sexual Duplicity
1. Uterine Furors: Vitalist Neo-Humoralism and the Impossibility of Non-Consent
2. D’Alembert’s Wet Dream: The Gendered Ethics of Nocturnal Emissions
Part II. Historicizing Modesty: Female Sexuality in the State of Nature
3. Rousseau’s Natural Woman: On the Origin and Foundations of Sexual Inequality
4. Rape in Paradise: Tahiti and the (Hetero)Sexual Imperative
Part III. In the Moment: Rape, Libertinage, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel
5. Erasing Rape in Riccoboni: The Story of Miss Jenny Montfort
6. Sexual Violence in Laclos: Consent and the Virtuous Swoon
Afterword The Enduring Legacy of an Enlightenment Narrative
Mary McAlpin is Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.