Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas

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Cornell University Press, 1995 - Social Science - 292 pages
This highly original book is the first study of American sexuality at the time of the conquests. It examines the sexual relations, mainly between males, that the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered when they entered various parts of the Americas from 1492 until around 1750.
Trexler focuses above all on the native American berdaches or 'she-men' - the biological males in tribes across the Americas who, in all possible ways, imitated women throughout their lifetimes. The author explores in detail the reactions of the Spaniards and the Portuguese to the appearance and behaviour of the berdaches, using this as a way to reflect on European sexuality, on sexual relations in the Americas and on the relations - sexual and otherwise - between conquerors and conquered.
The main argument of the book is that much of the homosexual behaviour and transvestism encountered by the Iberians resulted from social constraints among the American tribes themselves. Trexler shows that the sexual attitudes of the Americans were not at all like the innocent freedom that some commentators have imagined. The analysis of the berdaches, and of the native Americans' despisal of them, therefore helps to shed light on the forms of social and political organization and on the kinds of coercion and abuse which existed in the Americas at the time of the Conquests.
This book will disrupt some conventional ways of thinking and will stimulate fresh debate about the role of sexuality in the conquest of the Americas.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AlexTheHunn - LibraryThing

This book was eye-opening to me. I was astonished to learn about the berdaches among the Native Americans. This book causes me to challenge what I think about sexual orientation being born. Trexler's ... Read full review

Sex and conquest: gendered violence, political order and the European conquest of the Americas

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Trexler (history, SUNY-Binghamton) examines the male sexual culture in Europe, particularly Spain, and in America at the time of the Spanish conquest, delineating the relationship between power and ... Read full review


Iberian Experiences
The Military and Diplomatic Berdache
The Religious Berdache
On the Ground
Attitudes and Assessments
Yesterday and Today

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About the author (1995)

Richard C. Trexler is Professor of History, State University of New York at Binghamton.

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