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AND 1` 14; EIG I-1 7′ E N -CNNTUR .Meth “la* .in zi e M;W:RgiM i ,:i…z., 74,,,,,, . , …,:m,’,:::4,441MgiMii.v4P:VO4,v..0. 0,,Q.r, ,…wtwwzmv:Z…t…. o.? man] posed a threat to women and girls and to white men’s patriarchal prerogatives.” Black men were disproportionately charged and convicted of rape, dogged so tenaciously by the stereotype of rapacious sexual predator that New Englanders advocated making an added spectacle of their execution. In a Boston rape case that centered on a black man, a newspaper noted that “it is earnestly desired by many, that his body may be hanged in a Chain, either upon the Neck or some other conspicuous place, to deter all, but especially the insolent Tribe of Blacks from the like wicked Attempts of the Future.” Chillingly, the people got what they wanted. While much of Foster’s book is a compendium of engaging cases involving sexual deviance, Foster does offer, albeit suggestively, a profoundly significant interpretation. Whereas historians and philosophers conventionally argued that before the rise of modernism sexuality was determined by actions rather than identity \(this is mainly Michel the idea that, to the contrary, sexuality was about identity even in the 18th century. His reading of the evidence on this point is impressively nuanced. Noting how several men who had to defend themselves against charges of sodomy did so by highlighting their natural heterosexual predispositions, Foster reveals that these men were appealing to their inherent sexualitynot their actionsas an indication of the “total man.” The logic being, “I’m straight, so I could never do that.” Likewise, through a creative, if extenuated, interpretation of an anti-Masonic poem published in the newspaper, one that equated the Masons’ secretive character with their fondness for same-sex sex, Foster ventures the idea that “[t]he Freemasons’ supposed rituals and celebratory practices of anal penetration perverted the norms of fraternal bonding by blurring the distinction between male friendship and loyalty and sexual intimacy.” If I read this analysis properly, Foster conflates sexuality with such fundamental aspects of the “total Man” as friendship and loyalty to indicate that colonial Americans did not actively separate sexual acts from the larger components of a man’s identity. In other words, these men were not being impugned with practicing sodomy, they were sodomites. A couple of quibbles. It probably goes without saying that this book is for a wide audience. While much of Foster’s prose is appropriate for this larger readership, he sometimes slips upon poorly edited patches of jargon. Take this one: “As a foil for normative manhood, then, the foppish bachelor was not merely a figure who condensed norms of social comportment by negation.” Not a huge problem, but still… The only other issue is that in a cultural history of this caliber, it is shame that the publisher did not pony up for a single image. The omission is particularly maddening as Foster describes the image attached to the anti-Mason poem mentioned above: “The novelty of the engraving in itself would have drawn the attention of readers; the content of the image must have been doubly shocking. It depicted two smiling men, one bent over with his pants pulled down to retrieve a treenail, or wooden peg, the other, with a hammer raised over head, ready to strike.” This image, as well as dozens of others, would have effectively complemented this superb study. Plus, this is one, after all, where you could honestly say you were looking at it for the writing. Contributing writer James E. McWilliams lives in Austin. JANUARY 12, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13