American Reproductive History Since Slavery in the United States: Even if the young white woman in this story did not consider herself a sexual assaulter which she probably did not , this is clearly sexually predatory behavior. According to Captain Richard J. University Press of Florida, While it may have been expected, to a certain extent, that white men would transgress morally e. Although it is impossible to know exactly how many black women were sexually assaulted under slavery , such abuse was widespread. Under what conditions did they occur?
This is undoubtedly an exaggeration, but the fact remains that upper class white women, whatever luxuries their privileged race and class status afforded them, faced a unique set of limiting patriarchal dicta. 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. University Press of Florida, Rutgers University Press, Still, sexual contact between white women and black men did occur in slaveholding societies, more often than perhaps many are aware. How should they be described in terms of power, agency, and consent? Leave men to themselves without the intermixture of female society and the softening influence of female modesty, gentleness and affection, and they would infallibly become rude, harsh, coarse, quarrelsome, and in their quarrels cruel and unrelenting. Former slaves Harriet Jacobs, Charles Ball, and Frederick Douglass all mention in their autobiographies that their mistresses were often crueler, meaner, and more violent than their masters. Then there will be no concealment; and you will see and hear things that will seem to you impossible among human beings with immortal souls. University of Chicago Press, We thus see that plantation mistresses and elite women, like their male counterparts, were able to sexually control and abuse their slaves. There is also a possibility that affairs between white women and slaves were simply not noticed or recorded as often as they occurred. Oxford University Press, I have myself seen the master of such a household whose head was bowed down in shame; for it was known in the neighborhood that his daughter had selected one of the meanest slaves on his plantation to be the father of his first grandchild. Men, Women and Rape Indeed, in private, many plantation women were unhappy with their lack of freedom and the expectation that they remain dutiful, obedient, pleasant, and cheerful while their husbands had affairs with or raped female slaves. These so-called consensual sexual partnerships can be seen, like rape, as an exercise in white patriarchal authority. White women whose affairs with slaves were made known faced varying degrees of public humiliation. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped and starved into submission to their will. For much of the nineteenth-century, abortion was largely unregulated, and it was not limited to poor, immigrant, or black women; upper- and middle-class white women, too, had abortions Caron, pp. Perhaps some of them were simply bored or sexually frustrated Southern women, who generally married at a younger age than those in the North—not infrequently at fifteen or sixteen years old Clinton, pp. Adultery was considered a greater offense for women than for men, and was punished more harshly. 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. Their freedom and mobility was severely limited; for example, they were generally not allowed to travel without an older male chaperone Clinton, p. They know that the women slaves are subject to their father's authority in all things; and in some cases they exercise the same authority over the men slaves.
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