Regulating Desire: From the Virtuous Maiden to the Purity Princess

Front Cover
SUNY Press, Sep 30, 2014 - Social Science - 224 pages
Examines the organized efforts to reshape the law relating to young women s sexuality in the United States.

Starting with the mid-nineteenth-century campaign by the American Female Moral Reform Society to criminalize seduction and moving forward to the late twentieth-century conservative effort to codify a national abstinence-only education policy, Regulating Desire explores the legal regulation of young women s sexuality in the United States. The book covers five distinct time periods in which changing social conditions generated considerable public anxiety about youthful female sexuality and examines how successive generations of reformers sought to revise the law in an effort to manage unruly desires and restore a gendered social order. J. Shoshanna Ehrlich draws upon a rich array of primary source materials, including reform periodicals, court cases, legislative hearing records, and abstinence curricula to create an interdisciplinary narrative of socially embedded legal change. Capturing the complex and dynamic nature of the relationship between the state and the sexualized youthful female body, she highlights how the law both embodies and shapes gendered understandings of normative desire as mediated by considerations of race and class.

Extremely thorough and very enjoyable to read, this book provides an authoritative scholarly voice on its subject matter. Alesha E. Doan, coauthor of The Politics of Virginity: Abstinence in Sex Education

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Predatory Men and Virtuous Maidens Saving Young Women from Ruinous Seduction
Protecting Her Most Prized Possession The Campaign to Raise the Age of Sexual Consent
Responding to the Girl Problem The Emergence of the Female Sexual Delinquent
Our Daughters Are Having Babies The Fashioning of a Public Response to the Teen Pregnancy Epidemic
Our Daughters Are Having Sex The Conservative Pushback against Teen Promiscuity

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2014)

J. Shoshanna Ehrlich is Associate Professor of Women s and Gender Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the author of Family Law for Paralegals, Sixth Edition and Who Decides? The Abortion Rights of Teens.

Bibliographic information