Seduction Tales

In the late eighteenth century, American presses began to produce a stream of seduction tales for young female readers. These narratives, detailing the seduction and abandonment of young women by male predators, were inspired by the mid-eighteenth-century writings of British author Samuel Richardson. Growing anxieties in America surrounding courtships, which were no longer under the strict surveillance of parents and the community, ensured the popularity of these stories. Initially displaying considerable imagination and flexibility regarding masculinity, seduction tales ultimately propagated a vision of men as aggressive and lustful.

This model of virile manhood marked a significant departure from colonial thinking. Colonists believed that women, as descendants of Eve, were more lustful than men, while men were thought more capable of rational control over their animal appetites. ...

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