Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Sexual Defense of American Women

Maga reviews some book from the mid-1960s entitled A Sexual Defense of American Women. It's great reading if (like me) you're a sucker for historical relationship advice. The library of my literary fraternity in undergrad contained the enormously entertaining How To Get a Teenage Boy and What to Do with Him When You Get Him, and online there's the Social Guidance section of the Prelinger Archives.

There's really not too much to add, but this bit stuck out:

The point of this book, clearly, is male aspirational envy; it's ostensibly directed towards women, but I can't help feeling that this is at least partially misdirection. The book's main energies are spent on playing up the hotness of the hot chicks into whose heads and pants Rankin has got, and on pouring scorn on Inadequate Men, so I'm guessing that teenage boys and young men are at least partially the target. The publishers don't seem to be quite sure about this - the advertisements on the final pages include both male-targeted sex pulp and female-targeted romance pulp.

These sorts of books are absolutely targeted to men; selling masculinity back to men is their raison d'etre. (Sure, some of them do it because they want to reshape what masculinity means, but I suspect the vast majority just play up the stereotypes because that's where the money is.)

One thing I do wonder is how these sorts of guides read prior to WWII, second-wave feminism, and the contemporary form of anxious masculinity. There's a pretty big gap in my knowledge between Capellanus and 50s social advice.

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