Added: December 20, 2014 – Last updated: March 14, 2015


Speaker: Shannon Camille Eaves

Title: Terms of Engagement

Subtitle: Considering Enslaved Women's perceptions of consent and agency in the midst of sexually coercive relationships

Conference: 97th Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History: Black Women in American Culture & History (September 26-30, 2012)

Place: Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania, United States

Date: September 28, 2012

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | U.S. History | Types: Interracial Rape, Slave Rape; Victims: Slaves


Link: -


Speaker: Shannon Eaves, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


»Historians of enslaved women in the Antebellum South have continued the search to not only uncover enslaved women’s experiences, but to contextualize them in broader themes of power and patriarchy, racial and gender othering, and identity formation. At the center of the discussion of enslaved women’s sexual itation there have been immense historiographical debates over enslaved women’s agency and their ability to consent to interracial sexual relations. While scholars, such as Angela Davis, have emphasized the exploitive nature of sexual relations between white men and enslaved women, others have emphasized enslaved women’s agency, arguing that they found ways to resist sexual exploitation. Additionally, Joshua Rothman argued that blacks, as well as whites, actively pursued interracial sexual relationships to challenge social norms and resist patriarchy and slavery. Though arguments like Rothman’s have provided balance to the historiographical debate, Clarence Walker has challenged historians to shift the emphasis to exploring whether enslaved women perceived of themselves as agents in the midst of sexual subjugation.
Through the examination of slave narratives and formerly enslaved women’s petitions to the federal government for land, pensions, and protection I will explore how enslaved women perceived their ability or inability to consent to interracial sex—primarily with slaveholders—and how they negotiated the terms of engagement within the bounds of sexually coercive relationships. I will argue that despite the exploitative nature of these sexual relationships in question, enslaved women illustrated a capacity to speak openly about and even legitimate these sexual relationships before government agents to secure the economic advancement of themselves and their families.« (Source: All Academic Research)

Wikipedia: Slavery: Female slavery in the United States