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research, according to Godbeer, support the hypothesis that they had sexual contacts with Indian woman. “It seems difficult to believe that a group of young, and notoriously unbridled men remained celibate for an extended period of time.” In response to these unusual circumstances, they must have turned to each other. Godbeer asserts that “settlers in seventeenth-century Chesapeake often paired off to form all-male households, living and working together.” Acknowledging that many if not all of these couplings would have a sexual dimension, he concludes that “it seems reasonable to assume that much of the sex that took place in the first few years of settlement in the south was sodomitical.” But that’s about as far as he’s willing to go. I wanted to know more: How were these households arranged? Where is the cultural record of this episode in Virginia history? How would it have affected succeeding generations of colonists’ attitudes toward homosexuality? Did men simply abandon their male partners when women arrived in the colony, or did the two kinds of households exist simultaneously? Did the availability of women delegitimize allmale relationships? But for all the surprising evidence he evinces, Godbeer doesn’t advance a thesis that addresses these and other questions. I also wanted to know, for example, how the colonists’ cultures of origin affected their private and public attitudes about sex. Were those who chose \(to the extent that one had that different kinds of people than those who settled in the Carolinas? Did these differences have lasting effects? Godbeer doesn’t even try to answer these questions, but those who wish to pursue them will do well to begin with this amply documented cultural history. The final section of Sexual Revolution in Early America takes us to burgeoning Philadelphia in the years surrounding the Revolutionary War. Here Godbeer begins with the quite un-revolutionary thesis that the rhetoric of revolution affected sexual beliefs and practices as well as politics. In the second half of the 18th century “the slackening of parental control paved the way for a less restrictive sexual climate, which then seems to have been further encouraged by the spirit and disruptive impact of the American Revolution.” In Philadelphia and other growing urban centers, looser standards for sexual conduct coincide with the weakening and dispersal of Puritan authority, thus requiring new kinds of regulation. The most interesting plank in the argument has to do with the way attitudes about sex began to differentiate by gender. Drawing on both literary and legal texts, he “examines the persistence of a regulatory ethos in eighteenth-century New England and also the sexual culture that it sought to govern.” This regulatory ethos shifted the burden of moral authority to the female body and while it aimed on the one hand to protect young women from pregnancy and abandonment in a community too diffuse to protect them, it also constructed the female body as the bulwark against a “natural” and unrestrainable male desire. Because revolutionary-era “writers argued that private and public virtue were closely intertwined,” women became the vessel in which both private and public virtue were contained. A young woman of the period was exposed to stories in literature and the press that argued for the civic importance of her personal chastity. Godbeer explains: “Women could and must ensure moral order by using their hold over men to shape their conduct as suitors, husbands, fathers, and citizens. Heightened concern for the physical safety and moral welfare of women in the new republic was bound up with widespread discussion of their mission to guide men away from corrupt political impulses; women had to be kept inviolate because so much rested upon their integrity.” Godbeer seems unwilling to leave the safe harbor of documents for the murkier waters of big, speculative ideas, and, though a frustrating weakness, it’s not a fatal one. Sexual Revolution in Early America can help ground and enrich contemporary debates about sex in 21st -century America by reminding us that since our very beginnings sexual behaviors have existed in a space bounded by both liberatory and regulatory rhetoric and practices. Despite the purity and passion of the advocates, one doesn’t “solve the problem” of unlicensed sex, but understanding the multivalent historical causes is certainly a more productive and nuanced way to proceed in the kinds of debates with which we seem preoccupiedand in which we also seem permanently mired, such as teen pregnancy, single-motherhood, and homosexual marriage. Elisabeth H. Piedmont-Marton is a writer who lives in Austin and an assistant professor of English at Southwestern University. 11/8/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23