Criminal Intimacy - Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality Book

Criminal Intimacy - Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality Book

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Sex is usually assumed to be a closely guarded secret of prison life. But it has long been the subject of intense scrutiny by both prison administrators and reformers—as well as a source of fascination and anxiety for the American public. Historically, sex behind bars has evoked radically different responses from professionals and the public alike. In Criminal Intimacy, Regina Kunzel tracks these varying interpretations and reveals their foundational influence on modern thinking about sexuality and identity.

Historians have held the fusion of sexual desire and identity to be the defining marker of sexual modernity, but sex behind bars, often involving otherwise heterosexual prisoners, calls those assumptions into question. By exploring the sexual lives of prisoners and the sexual culture of prisons over the past two centuries—along with the impact of a range of issues, including race, class, and gender; sexual violence; prisoners’ rights activism; and the HIV epidemic—Kunzel discovers a world whose surprising plurality and mutability reveals the fissures and fault lines beneath modern sexuality itself.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, including physicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, correctional administrators, journalists, and prisoners themselves—as well as depictions of prison life in popular culture—Kunzel argues for the importance of the prison to the history of sexuality and for the centrality of ideas about sex and sexuality to the modern prison. In the process, she deepens and complicates our understanding of sexuality in America.

Criminal Intimacy successfully conveys the continued sidelining of the complexities of sex in prisons. For even in the face of the constant fear of violence in so many American prisons, Kunzel depicts a world in which sexual love between men, or between women, once it is given the attention it deserves, can still threaten to unsettle dominant conceptions of stable sexual identities. It is this that makes Kunzel's book essential reading for anyone interested in learning more about the multifarious exchanges between sexuality and identity, in any context.-- "Times Higher Education"

"Kunzel's fascinating history of the changing attitudes toward same-sex sex in prisons challenges views of sexuality and gender identity as simple or immutable."

"[Kunzel] succeeds magnificently in tracing the shifting multiple understandings of sex in prison, with all its complex gender, class, and racial dynamics. . . . This is an important contemporary story. If we thought for a moment that sex in prison was something that happened far away to other people, Kunzel makes us think again."
Leila J. Rupp "Women's Review of Books"

"This much-anticipated book does not disappoint. Regina Kunzel not only offers a long-overdue, rich account of sex in prisons, but uses the institution's position . . . to obtain an important new perspective on modern sexuality. . . . This book will change the way you look at modern sexuality.--Stephen Robertson "
Journal of American History

"Criminal Intimacy is simply the best book on the history of sexuality that I've read in some time. Kunzel has tackled a conceptually and historically elusive topic and treated it with a sure critical sense, a broad chronological sweep, a delicate and subtle tact, and an enviable common sense. She has synthesised a mass of material to produce a coherent narrative, foregrounding issues of class, race, and gender in her analysis without sacrificing complexity or detail. It is beautifully and economically written and a pleasure to read--this is not just a good book, but a major one."
David Halperin, author of How to Do the History of Homosexuality

"Criminal Intimacy shows how the inside world of prison culture both reflects and shapes the outside world's understanding of sexuality. In prose that is lucid, economical, and often elegant, Kunzel offers a sophisticated and persuasive argument that complicates the dominant historical narrative about the emergence of modern homosexuality. The research is prodigious and the primary materials are deftly incorporated throughout this impressive book."
Estelle B. Freedman, author of No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

Author Regina Kunzel
Format Paperback
Pages 396
ISBN 9780226462271


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