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Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History Hardcover – 8 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (8 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780674009240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674009240
  • ASIN: 067400924X
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,203,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


By culling examples from the "New York Times and the "Times of London, legal reports, film TV and tabloids, McLaren shows not just how sexual blackmail reflects social mores, but also the ways in which sexual deceit and secrecy have affected legislation...The book tracks sexual blackmail from repressive Victorian times to today, when exposure of sexual secrets if far less damaging...Deftly organized and full of gripping facts and critique, "Sexual Blackmail makes reading history a wicked indulgence.

As ÝMcLaren¨ shows in this meticulous and detailed excavation of a painful history, people suffer doubly when their consensual, private erotic needs are denied or distorted by a hypocritical culture: first by being forced to hide or deny their desires; second by being exposed to the insidious forms of sexual blackmail. -- Jeffrey Weeks "Times Higher Education Supplement" (09/05/2003)

The central premise of this carefully researched volume is that sexual blackmail--the attempt to extort money by threatening to expose sexual secrets--has a past. McLaren...has delved extensively into court documents and news archives to furnish hundreds of examples of his subject...McLaren's most useful cautionary tale is that blackmail flares up in times when widely practiced sex acts are most stigmatized.

A fascinating new study...ÝMcLaren¨ introduces us to a gallery of persistent blackmailers, like Dapper Dan Collins, who led an American extortion gang 80 years ago...ÝHe¨ sees the history of Europe and North America through the prisms offered by sexual experience and laws related to sex...McLaren uses the rich material he's uncovered as a way to understand sexuality in modern history. -- Robert Fulford "National and Financial Post"

forced to hide or deny their desires; second by being exposed to the insidious forms of sexual blackmail.

cultural prominence of stories about sexual blackmail in the years in which sexuality began to take a modern form.

damaging...Deftly organized and full of gripping facts and critique, "Sexual Blackmail" makes reading history a wicked indulgence.

women and gay men were persecuted, and judicial attempts to police private life were far more corrupting than the practices they sought to prevent.

through the prisms offered by sexual experience and laws related to sex...McLaren uses the rich material he's uncovered as a way to understand sexuality in modern history.

century... With increasing acceptance of sexual minorities, and the declining stigmatization of behavior that was hitherto regarded as deviant, McLaren suggests that sexual blackmail has died out.


Sexual blackmail first reached public notice in the late 18th century when laws against sodomy were exploited by the unscrupulous to extort money from those they could entrap. Angus McLaren chronicles this parasitic crime, tracing its expansion in England and the United States through the Victorian era and into the first half of the 20th century. The labelling of certain sexual acts as disreputable, if not actually criminal - abortion, infidelity, prostitution, and homosexuality - armed would-be blackmailers and led to a crescendo of court cases and public scandals in the 1920s and 1930s. As the importance of sexual respectability was inflated, so too was the spectacle of its loss. Charting the rise and fall of sexual taboos and the shifting tides of shame, McLaren enables us to survey evolving sexual practices and discussions. He has mined the archives to tell his story through a host of fascinating characters and cases, from male bounders to designing women, d<"@from badger games to gold diggers, from victimless crimes to homosexual outing. He shows how these stories shocked, educated, entertained and destroyed the lives of their victims.

He also demonstrates how muckraking journalists, con men, and vengeful women determined the boundaries of sexual respectability and damned those considered deviant. Ultimately, the sexual revolution of the 1960s blurred the long-rigid lines of respectability, leading to a rapid decline of blackmail fears. This fascinating view of the impact of regulating sexuality from the late Victorian Age to our own time demonstrates the centrality of blackmail to sexual practices, deviance and the law.

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