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'You cannot fix the scarlet letter on my breast!': women reading, writing, and reshaping the sexual culture of Victorian America.

Abstract: Jesse F. Battan, "'You Cannot Fix the Scarlet Letter on my Breast!': Women Reading, Writing, and Reshaping the Sexual Culture of Victorian America"

By the nineteenth century, privacy was increasingly valued and increasingly scarce. While some culture critics attacked the willingness of publishers to expose private experiences to public scrutiny, others viewed this as an essential weapon in the arsenal of reform. This was especially true of a group of nineteenth-century sexual radicals, the self-described "Free Lovers." In the newspapers they published, such as The Word, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, and Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, they provided a public forum in which readers could unburden their hearts and describe in intimate detail the sexual problems they experienced. As confidants to the discontented, the editors of these newspapers published ideas and experiences not commonly found in public discourse from those who seldom saw their words in print. This in turn provided readers with a sense that the problems they faced were shared by many and gave support to those who sought to break free from the restrictions placed on their behavior by Victorian sexual ideology. By exploring the articles and the letters to the editor columns published in the Free Love press, this essay examines the ways in which these newspapers were read by exploring their impact on the sexual ideas and behaviors of "real readers."
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Article Details
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Publication:Journal of Social History
Article Type:Author Abstract
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:224
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