Sexual relations and dating

The sullying influence of slavery must not touch the women of the upper class lest the entire structure crumble.” Coupled with the notion of elite white female sexual virtue was that of white female vulnerability—the idea that plantation wives and daughters needed to be protected, defended, and sheltered.Framing women in this way served as a means of patriarchal control.

As political scientist Iris Young (2003) explains, “the role of the masculine protector puts those protected, paradigmatically women and children, in a subordinate position of dependence and obedience.” White women whose affairs with slaves were made known faced varying degrees of public humiliation.When a planter’s daughter or wife was discovered to be pregnant by a slave, great pains were taken to cover up the pregnancy.Perhaps some of them were simply bored or sexually frustrated.But perhaps, at least on a subconscious level, sexually exploiting slaves was a means of compensating for their lack of power in other aspects of their lives.85-86)—were often left abandoned on plantations while their husbands travelled for business, pleasure, or military duty (Clinton, p. The life of a plantation mistress was often lonely and sad.

The fact that affairs between planter-class women and slaves were relatively uncommon is unsurprising; white women in the South were sexually restricted as compared to their male counterparts, and nineteenth-century contraceptive techniques were not nearly effective or accessible enough to ward off the possibility of pregnancy.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.” Jacobs’ account of the sexual violence endured by slave women is merely one of many.But what of sexual relations between planter-class white women and slave men? How should they be described in terms of power, agency, and consent?Answering these questions involves analyzing historical records through the lens of power relations, parsing through the complexities of racial, class, and gender hierarchies.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.