Discipline, Sex, and the Republican Self

Clare A. Lyons

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746705
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Discipline, Sex, and the Republican Self

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)



The American Revolution took place at a time of a revolutionary loosening of the patriarchal control and marital organization of sexuality that had characterized much of colonial society, as well as a counterrevolution against it. The Revolution and the birth of a new nation coincided with a longer period of changes in intimate behavior initiated by men and women on both sides of the Atlantic. Throughout much of western Europe, sexual behavior escalated outside of marriage, and new meanings associated with sexual practices flourished. In the new United States, sexual expression presented challenges to traditional social hierarchy. Like monarchy, patriarchy came under attack in the second half of the eighteenth century as a manifestation of illegitimate and absolute power. The second sexual revolution, launched to counter the democratic initiatives of the subalterns of early American society, was marked by attempts to define legitimate sexuality and the sexual self.

Keywords: American Revolution; sexuality; sexual self; sexual behavior; patriarchy; Europe; sexual expression; intimate behavior

Article.  8481 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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