Cover image for Sexual violence and American manhood
Sexual violence and American manhood
Herbert, T. Walter (Thomas Walter), 1938-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
256 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6250.4.W65 H463 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Taking up topics as diverse and timely as the work of FBI profilers, the pornography debates, feminist analyses of male supremacy as sexual abuse, the ritual meanings of fraternity gang rape, and the interplay of racial and sexual injustice, T. Walter Herbert illuminates the chronic masculine anxieties that seek compensation in fantasies of sexual coercion and in sexual offenses against women. His work offers an unusually clear view of this prevailing convention of insecure and destructive masculinity, which Herbert connects with contemporary analyses of male identity formation, sexuality, and violence and with cultural, political, and ideological developments reaching back to the nation's democratic beginnings.

Reading iconic nineteenth-century texts by Whitman, Hawthorne, and Stowe, and pursuing the articulation of their gender logic in Richard Wright's Native Son , Herbert traces a gender ideology of dominance and submission, its persistence in masculine subcultures like the military and big-time football, and its debilitating effects on imaginations and lives in our own day. In materials as diverse as Hannah Foster's post-Revolutionary War novel The Coquette and the Coen brothers' 1996 movie Fargo , this book taps into popular culture and high art alike to outline the logic of American manhood's violent streak--and its dire consequences for a culture with truly democratic and egalitarian ambitions.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Herbert (English, Southwestern Univ.) traces the shifting ideologies that have created and justified the sexually abusive behavior of men in 19th- and 20th-century America, mainly through an examination of literary texts. Surveying what he calls the tradition of "despotic manhood," Herbert alights on some very familiar works, including those by Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawhorne, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin. His conclusions about the past and present culture of misogyny in America are as convincing as they are sobering, but Herbert sounds a hopeful note throughout, believing that Americans can draw on their democratic traditions to achieve more egalitarian sexual relations. His brave, highly personal prolog and epilog serve to humanize the author and make the book a lot less preachy than it might have been otherwise. Herbert writes in an engaging and accessible manner, free of academic jargon. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Andrew Brodie Smith, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lib., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Frontiers of Masculinity
2 Rape as an Activity of the Imagination
3 Becoming a Natural Man
4 Pornographic Manhood
5 Investigations behind the Veil
6 Rape as Redemption
7 Democratic Masculinities
Epilogue Works Cited