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Joseph S. Bonica, 'The Unmanly Fear: Extortion Before the Twentieth Century', 1-29

Article

Published onSep 01, 2013
Joseph S. Bonica, 'The Unmanly Fear: Extortion Before the Twentieth Century', 1-29

Abstract
This essay concerns the history of extortion in American law and culture, highlighting the shift from extortion as a paradigmatically male enterprise to one inseparably associated with women. Before the nineteenth-century, extortion was figured as an assault on a victim’s consent. Since men monopolized consent, extortion unfolded as a contest between legal subjects over political manhood. After the mid-nineteenth-century, a new class of ‘respectable’ victims, openly terrified by women’s threats, made unprecedented claims for legal protection. In response, well-placed courts wrote consent out of the equation, broadening the scope of extortionous threats to unleash the familiar fin-de-siècle tide of sex scandal.

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