Lines of Color, Sex, and Service: Sexual Coercion in the Early Republic by Sharon Block Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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Lines of Color, Sex, and Service: Sexual Coercion in the Early Republic by Sharon Block is based on two women who were mistreated by their masters. Rachel Davis, a white woman, was a servant to William and Becky Cress when she was 14-years-old. Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved black woman, was a slave in James and Mary Norcoms household. When the women reached ages 15 and 16, both their masters made sexual overtures to them, in which the women had to try and over power. Becky Cress, Williams wife and Mary Norcom, James wife were women who could not control their husbands actions.

Since both Becky and Mary suspected that their husbands were having a sexual relationship with their servant, they insisted that the servant left the house immediately. Even though Rachel and Harriet were removed from their masters household, their masters continued to visit them at their new home trying to have sex with them. When Mary had Harriet sleep with her so her husband could not and so she could protect Harriet, Harriet said, she whispered in my ear, as though it was her husband who was speaking to me, and listened to hear what I would answer. (140) When Mary confronted her husband about the issue, he did not stop his sexual overtures.

After Becky heard William trying to kiss Rachel in the cellar, Rachel said, she had caught him & he wd deceive her no longer, but William denied any wrongdoing and Becky left in tears. These verbal confrontations apparently did not alter Williams behavior; he continued to force himself sexually upon Rachel. (140) These two wives show that they had no power over their husband.

They confronted their husbands about the situation and all they did was deny their behaviors, which lead to Becky and Mary not undertaking any actions to put their husbands sexual overtures to an end. If Becky and Mary really wanted their husbands sexual relationship with their servant to end, why didnt they remove their husband from the house? Or why didnt they just divorce their husband? This shows how men over powered women during this time by talking their way out of dilemmas and how women did not have the courage to stand up for themselves and prove that they are right and their husband are wrong.

By Rachel Davis being a white woman she had more of an opportunity to over power her master than Harriet Jacobs. The master of the white servant was sent to prison, while the black slave imprisoned herself to escape her abuser. (136) In 1807, Rachels father found out what had occurred and initiated a rape prosecution against William, who was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. (136) Since Rachel had her fathers support and also because she was white she was very fortunate that her master ended up in jail.

Even though Rachel and Harriets rape incidents by their masters were very similar, enslaved women ordinarily did not have access to the protection offered by a patriarchal figure. (143) This is unfair to Harriet because she doesnt get the local legal system to form a criminal prosecution like they did for Rachel because she is black. Harriet also went through rougher times than Rachel. Rachel was demanded out of the household right when her mistress suspected the sexual relationship. For Harriet, Mary demanded that she left the house when she found out Harriet was pregnant.

Harriet had to do this so she could get away from her master and show her mistress that what her husband was doing to her was factual. Harriet didnt have anyone to help her end her masters sexual overtures on her, she had to became a runaway slave, and hide in her free grandmothers attic. Even though both the masters treated Rachel and Harriet the same way, Harriets grandmother could not help her lead to legal intervention like Rachels father did for her. During this time, women were treated with no respect just as if they were nothing, especially the black women.

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