Slavery constituted the principal backdrop against which whites and blacks encountered one another for over two hundred years, from the s to the s. The overwhelming majority of slave owners were white, and the overwhelming majority of slaves black. There was probably more black-white sex during this period than at any other time thus far in American history. Most of it was unwanted sex, stemming from white males' exploitation of black women-the subject of many pages to come.? But what about mutually desired sex or what I refer to as sexual intimacy? Some commentators insist that there can have been no such thing as sexual intimacy between a black enslaved woman and any white man-a slave owner or overseer or even a mere stranger-because mutually desired sex requires choice, a power denied to slaves by bondage. According to this view, slavery created an extreme dependency that precluded the possibility of chosen as opposed to unwanted sex. As a result, all of the sex that took place between enslaved women and white men constituted some form of sexual assault. Professor Angela Davis is among those who make this argument.
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At age seven in she became free through the efforts of her father, an escaped slave, and influential men in Massachusetts. Her photograph was published, and she accompanied Senator Charles Sumner , a leading abolitionist, on a publicity tour. The photo and tour made her famous, and she was considered a real-life Ida May, the child hero of a popular novel about a girl kidnapped into slavery.
The daguerreotype shows a 7-year old girl. Her face is pale, her expression somber. Her elegant plaid dress, trimmed in lace, and the notebook on the cloth-covered table behind her, suggest that she comes from a prosperous family.
There is ample evidence of sexual relations, from rapes to what appear to be relatively symbiotic romantic partnerships, between white slave masters and black women in the Antebellum South. Much rarer were sexual relations between white women and black slave men, yet they too occurred. Using an intersectional socio-historical analysis, this paper explores the factors that contributed or may have contributed to the incidence of sexual encounters between elite white women and slave men, the power dynamics embedded in them, and their implications in terms of sexual consent. The paper demonstrates how upper-class white women who engaged in these relationships used sex as an instrument of power, simultaneously perpetuating both white supremacy and patriarchy. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped and starved into submission to their will. Although it is impossible to know exactly how many black women were sexually assaulted under slavery , such abuse was widespread. Not all sexual encounters between masters and female slaves would be considered rape according to most definitions of the term. The enormous imbalance of gender and racial power between the two parties problematizes the notion of a truly consensual romantic relationship between a slave master and his female slave.