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Lesbian Historic Motif Project: #7 - Karras 1999, “Sex and the Singlewoman”

Full citation: 

Karras, Ruth Mazo. 1999. “Sex and the Singlewoman” in Bennett, Judith M. & Amy M. Froide eds. Singlewomen in the European Past 1250-1800. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 0-8122-1668-7

Publication summary: 

While, no doubt, many lesbians in history made their peace with the need to accommodate marriage and family life, when designing a character who has the freedom to refuse marriage to a man, it helps to know what social and economic options would have been possible (or even normal) within your setting. There have been several excellent collections of papers (and even more monographs) on the topic of singlewomen, but I believe this was the first significant one to appear.

Karras, Ruth Mazo. “Sex and the Singlewoman”

In order to get a little ahead of myself, I busily scribbled notes on the next five articles from Singlewomen, however I was a bit too clever and was taking notes using my Livescribe pen and app, which is supposed to automatically transcribe my handwritten notes into e-text. But I got bogged down with trying to transfer the files from my iPhone (which syncs with the pen) to my iPad (which is one model to old to sync directly, but is better for doing the recognition and editing). So to get my entry posted before midnight, I'm skipping ahead a couple articles to cover two very short entries. They're short because the content is mostly irrelevant to my purposes, but I decided to include the entire contents of the collection anyway given that most of the articles have at least some relevant content.

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Included for completeness’ sake as the collection in general is relevant. However as this article concerns itself with the heterosexual activities of singlewomen it has little relevance to the project.

Women who did not fit the categories of virgin, wife, or widow were labeled prostitutes regardless of the nature of their sexual activity (i.e., whether commercial or not). This label was not typically applied to sexual activity between women unless a male role were being assumed/usurped, e.g., with “devices”. The article only mentions lesbian activity to exclude it from the following discussion.

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