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Improper Advances

Rape and Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929

Why do men rape women? This is a question for which there are many political, psychological, and sociological answers, but few historical ones. Improper Advances is one of the first books to explore the history of sexual violence in any country. A study of women, men, and sexual crime in rural and northern Ontario, it expands the terms of current debates about sexuality and sexual violence.

Karen Dubinsky relies on criminal case files, a revealing but largely untapped source for social historians, to retell individual stories of sexual danger—crimes such as rape, abortion, seduction, murder, and infanticide. Her research supports many feminist analyses of sexual violence: that crimes are expressions of power, that courts are prejudiced by the victim’s background, and that most assaults occur within the victims’ homes and communities.

Dubinsky distinguishes herself from most feminist scholars, however, by refusing to view women solely as victims and sex as a tool of oppression. She finds that these women actively sought and took pleasure in sexuality, but they distinguished between wanted and unwanted sexual encounters and attempted to punish coercive sex despite obstacles in the court system and the community.

Confronting a number of key theoretical and historiographic controversies, including recent debates over sexuality in feminist theory and politics, she challenges current thinking on the history of women, gender, and sexuality.

238 pages | 1 halftone, 4 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Gender and Sexuality

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

1. Sex, Shame, and Resistance: The Social and Historical Meaning of Rape
2. Discourses of Danger: The Social and Spatial Settings of Violence
3. Maidenly Girls and Designing Women: Prosecutions for Consensual Sex
4. Spectacle, Scandal, and Spicy Stories
5. From the Parlor to the Kitchen: Courtship, Popular Mores, and Regulation
6. Sex and the Single-Industry Community: The Social and Moral Reputation of Rural and Northern Ontario
Conclusion: The Double Standard, Twice Over

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