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Sex Expression and American Women Writers 1860–1940$
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Dale M. Bauer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780807832301

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807887691_bauer

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Refusing Middle Age

Refusing Middle Age

(p.71) Chapter Three Refusing Middle Age
Sex Expression and American Women Writers 1860–1940

Dale M. Bauer

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores the changes in how several American women writers—from Rebecca Harding Davis to Willa Cather—imagined the oversexualization of working women and then the undersexualization, even “frigidity,” of middle-aged females. If earlier writers identified sexuality with race, then with social class, and finally with age, this shifting set of anxieties about who is having sex and why is key to the new “problem” of middle age. If ugly girls existed on one side of the sexual divide, on the other side were middle-aged women; ugly girls and middle-aged women were pitted against an emerging ideal of sexual productivity for young women.

Keywords:   American women writers, Rebecca Harding Davis, Willa Cather, oversexualization, undersexualization, frigidity

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