Added: September 5, 2015 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Author: Kelly A(lisa) Ryan

Title: Regulating Passion

Subtitle: Sexuality and Patriarchal Rule in Massachusetts, 1700-1830

Place: New York, NY

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year: 2014

Pages: 288pp.

ISBN-13: 9780199928422 (hbk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 18th Century, 19th Century | U.S. History


Link: Amazon (Limited Preview)

Link: Google Books (Limited Preview)

Link: Oxford Scholarship Online (Restricted Access)


Author: Kelly A. Ryan, History Program, Indiana University Southeast


  Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  Introduction: Patriarchy and Sexual Regulation (p. 1)
Part One   Sexual Regulation and Patriarchy in the Late Colonial Era
  1. "The Slaves of Hymen": White Women and the Insistence on Marriage (p. 13)
  2. "The Passions Are against You": White Men's Sexual Reputation (p. 35)
  3. Racialized Patriarchy: Indians and African Americans in the Patriarchal Ideal (p. 58)
Party Two   Challenging the Patriarchal Order
  4. Hardy Men and Rustic Women: The Patriarchal Language of the Imperial Crisis (p. 85)
  5. Dealing with Independence: The Patriarchal Gaze and the Crisis in Racialized Patriarchy (p. 104)
  6. Making Chaste Citizens: Sexual Regulation and Reputation in the Early Republic (p. 125)
  7. Seduced Women and Designing Men: Refashioning the Sexual and Gendered Self (p. 149)
  8. Scrutinizing Sexuality: Charity and the Patriarchal Gaze (p. 176)
  Conclusion: "Nothing but our rights": Patriarchy, Sexual Regulation, and Power (p. 199)
  Appendices (p. 205)
  Notes (p. 211)
  Manuscript Sources (p. 251)
  Index (p. 255)


»Sexuality was critical to how individuals experienced, learned, and contested their place in early America. Regulating Passion shows the sweeping changes that affected the social and political morass centered on sexual behavior during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Massachusetts-even as patriarchy remained important to those configurations of power. Charting the government's and society's management of sexuality, Kelly A. Ryan uncovers the compelling stories of the individuals charged with sexual crimes and how elites hoped to contain and exploit "illicit" sexual behavior.
In the colonial era, elites designed laws, judicial and religious practices, and sermons that defined certain groups as criminal, the cause of sexual vice, and in need of societal oversight-while defining others as chaste and above reproach. Massachusetts fornicators, adulterers, seducers, and rapists were exemplars of improper behavior in the colonial era and were central to emerging sexual subjectivities associated with gender, race, and class status in the early republic. As Massachusetts modernized, culture and socialization became vehicles for enforcing the marital monopoly on sex and gendered expectations of sexual behavior.
The American Revolution saw the decline of direct sexual regulation by government and religious institutions and a rise in the importance of sexual reputation in maintaining hierarchy. As society moved away from publicly penalizing forms of illicit sexual behavior, it circulated ideas about sexual norms, initiated social ostracism, and interceded with family and friends to promote sexual morality, even as the government remained involved in cases of prostitution and interracial sex. At the same time, this transformation in sexual regulation opened up means to contest the power of patriarchy. Women, African Americans, Indians, and the poor often resisted the efforts of elites and established their own code of sexual conduct to combat ideas about what constituted sexual virtue and how society defined its leaders. They challenged derisive sexual characterizations, patriarchal visions of society, and sexual regulation to establish a space in the body politic. Ironically, their efforts often reinforced patriarchal ideals as their petitions asked for patriarchal privileges to be extended to them.
Based on records of crimes in lower and upper courts, print literature, and other documentary sources, Regulating Passion underscores the ways in which sexual mores remained essential to the project of differentiating between the virtue of citizens and contesting power structures in the tumultuous transitions from the colonial to early national period.« (Source: Oxford University Press)


Connolly, Brian. The William and Mary Quarterly 72(3) (July 2015): 517-522. – Full Text: JSTOR (Restricted Access), Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

French, Kara M. Journal of the Early Republic 35(2) (Summer 2015): 318-320. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Kann, Mark E. The American Historical Review 120(2) (April 2015): 612-613. – Full Text: Oxford Journals (Restricted Access)