Which sexual behaviors qualify as perverted? What kind of person deserves the label “pervert” and its consequential ostracization? Who among us deserves to be locked in a cage for our sexual desires and actions? And, most intriguingly, why have certain sexual behaviors become the object of scrutiny at various points in history, while others have not?
In this Olio, we will explore the history of sexual perversions, examining how and why particular sexual desires and behaviors were labeled as bad, abnormal, and unnatural at certain periods in Western thought. Why, for example, did Americans become so obsessed with pedophiles in the mid-late twentieth century? When did cross-dressing become associated with sexuality and thus marginalized as a perversion? Which rapists are considered perverted, or criminal, and which are just boys being boys? Is BDSM a healthy expression of desire, or a historically produced pathology?
Grounded in feminist queer theory and historical analysis, this Olio will cover the history of sexual insiders and outsiders from the colonial era through the twentieth century. By examining just who and what constitutes the category of the pervert, we will learn something new about our assumptions of what we call normal, natural, or even worse, good.