It is important to note that cases of rape would probably not have been seen as such by the wives of sexually abusive slave masters, who bought into the idea of the hypersexualized, unrapeable black Jezebel. Simon and Schuster, She selected the most brutalized, over whom her authority could be exercised with less fear of exposure. It is possible the sexual exploitation of slaves by women who had little power in relation to white men was a source of enjoyment that created a feeling of power. Within the Plantation Household: Under what conditions did they occur? However, although birth control and abortion methods in the nineteenth-century were not as widely used, safe, or accessible as they are today, they existed. Framing women in this way served as a means of patriarchal control.
Perhaps some of them were simply bored or sexually frustrated. Edited by Maria Fairchild. We Mean to Be Counted: Spousal abuse was often considered a legitimate method for men to control their wives Hodes, p. One former slave told Hinton that his mistress ordered him to sleep with her after her husband died Hodes, p. How should they be described in terms of power, agency, and consent? American History Slavery Race Gender Sex Rape Power American Slavery Abstract There is ample evidence of sexual relations, from rapes to what appear to be relatively symbiotic romantic partnerships, between white slave masters and black women in the Antebellum South. The dangers of having sexual relations with a black man rather than a white man were enormous in terms of the possibility of producing a mixed-race child. Another way in which white women were able to exercise sexual control over slaves was by threatening to accuse them of rape or attempted rape if they did not agree to sex Hodes, pp. University of North Carolina Press, In the case of white women and black men, we can use an intersectional analysis to better understand the ways in which elite Southern white women used oppressive, gendered notions of female purity and sexual subservience to maintain racial hierarchy. Black and White Women of the Old South. Women, Evangelicalism, and Honor in the Deep South, Because black men like black women were seen as inherently lustful and prone to sexual vice, for an elite woman to have illicit sex with a black rather than a white man might have been a slightly safer bet; it was easier to blame a black man of rape than a white man. It is possible the sexual exploitation of slaves by women who had little power in relation to white men was a source of enjoyment that created a feeling of power. They also allow us to observe the processes by which social hierarchies are sustained. This is in keeping with both the standard feminist conceptualization of rape as a tool of patriarchal oppression3 as well as the traditional un-feminist notion of women as too weak, emotionally and physically, to commit serious crimes, let alone sexual abuse, and the idea that men cannot be raped Bourke, , pp. Indeed, there is considerable documentation of white women coercing black men into having sex. Framing women in this way served as a means of patriarchal control. Using an intersectional socio-historical analysis, this paper explores the factors that contributed or may have contributed to the incidence of sexual encounters between elite white women and slave men, the power dynamics embedded in them, and their implications in terms of sexual consent. Slavery in the United States: Instead of attempting to dismantle the white patriarchal hegemony that oppressed both slaves and to a lesser extent white women, predatory white women who coerced slaves into sex through threat of rape opted to perpetuate both white supremacy and patriarchy, by reinforcing paternalistic notions of female sexuality. Adultery was considered a greater offense for women than for men, and was punished more harshly. Again, planter-class women were considered the property of their husbands and lacked considerable sexual agency relative to men. Although such relations were rarer than sex between male masters and slave women, they were no less complicated, problematic, and potentially exploitative, and no less worthy of scholarly analysis. These so-called consensual sexual partnerships can be seen, like rape, as an exercise in white patriarchal authority. A narrative of the life and adventures of Charles Ball, a black man, who lived forty years in Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia, as a slave
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