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Sexual Power, Sexual Power, 0817305831, 0-8173-0583-1, 978-0-8173-0583-3, 9780817305833, , , Sexual Power, 0817312013, 0-8173-1201-3, 978-0-8173-1201-5, 9780817312015,

Sexual Power
Feminism and the Family in America
by Carolyn Ross Johnston

1992. 432 pp.
Price:  $59.95 s
Quality Paper
2002. 432 pp.
Price:  $44.95 s


Since the early 1970s, scholars have argued, defined, and refined a wide range of interpretations of American women’s lives. Despite the richness of the recent literature, few interpretations sufficiently credit women’s family and sexual experiences for the emergence of feminism and the construction of pro-family agendas. Thus, Johnston’s approach offers an opportunity to view the history of feminism and the family from a fresh perspective.
            Much of the literature on feminism has focused on women’s oppression and victimization, rather than on the power that women historically have exerted. Johnston’s interpretation of American feminism differs from previous works because she argues that the gradual growth of feminist consciousness lies not simply in oppression or feelings of victimization, but paradoxically in a growing sense of the empowerment of women as wives and mothers. She traces how reproduction, sexuality, domesticity, and motherhood have been socially constructed, and examines how feminists and anti-feminists have fought on the terrain of “family” issues.
            Johnston explores critical questions concerning American women’s sexual lives. How have women’s empowering experiences in the family shaped feminist consciousness and action? How have feminists confronted family issues? How have women exerted sexual power? How was it contained within the limits of patriarchal society at times, while at other times it fueled the fires of feminist rebellion? How have gender and class issues affected domestic politics and feminism?


Carolyn Johnston is Professor of American Studies and History at Eckerd College.

"Carolyn Johnston presents a provocative thesis: the gradual growth of feminist consciousness lies not simply in oppression or feelings of victimization but paradoxically in a growning sense of empowerment …. Another call to action."
—New Directions for Women


“A strong and good book, accurate in its research and reporting – compelling in its argument. . . . Johnston creates a meaningful and well-constructed narrative of women’s history, as well as a good argument that the paradox of women’s power and women’s limitations within the family has been a shaping force of U.S. feminism.” – Gayle Graham Yates, University of Minnesota


“Sexual Power speaks to a wide range of readers: scholars of women’s history, American social history, and feminist theory; students in women’s studies classes and lay readers interested in gender issues. I am impressed with the scope and approach of this work, the way Johnston framed her argument, and the research undertaken to document this synthesis.” – Mary E. Frederickson, Miami University


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