Lascivious Pilgrims: Sexuality and Sexual Laws in the British Puritan New England Colonies During the Seventeenth-Century
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Modern audiences often see the Puritan religion and early American colonial culture as rigid and traditional, the beliefs of which were satirically summed up by H. L. Mencken as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." The study of sexuality in early Puritan American may have the effect of "humaniz[ing] the heretofore dour Puritans" by bringing to light their more personal aspects. Especially of interest would be the ways in which individuals in colonial New England broke away from their own societal regulations regarding sexuality, becoming involved in practices and relationships they deemed to be against their religious beliefs, making themselves seem all the more human in their imperfections. This curiosity concerning the personal lives of individuals in the past may be what sparked the history of sexuality as a field of study. The beliefs and laws that colonial culture established concerning personal life and sexuality in the seventeenth-century were greatly influential to the formation of subsequent beliefs and laws in later American culture.