Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas
By Richard C. Trexler
Cornell University Press, 1995, 292 pp.
The treacherous waters into which President Clinton waded during his gays in the military fiasco would have come as no surprise to the readers of Richard Trexler's ever-fascinating exposition of the links between force, sex, and military conquest. This excellent book focuses on the erotics of power at the time of the initial colonization of the western hemisphere and examines male culture of the period by assessing both Iberian and American attitudes toward transvestism and homosexuality. This highly original work of history, however, never loses sight of the comparative and contemporary implications of its findings, whether on the policy of rape as an instrument of terror, humiliation, and subjection in 1990s Bosnia, or for the sale of village boys into prostitution in the Philippines. Trexler, a distinguished historian who teaches at the SUNY, Binghamton, has mined the documentary record of the period with great caution and sophistication to yield a meticulous exposition of the interpretation the Spaniards and Portuguese placed on the sexual culture they encountered in the new world and the construction of their own sexual behavior and attitudes in this critical early period. That so central and intimate a subject in the history of the Americas waited so long to find its historian is an indication of the continuing sensitivity of the questions discussed, as well as a tribute to the maturity of gender studies now flowering among scholars throughout the Americas.