The Color of Sex

Whiteness, Heterosexuality, and the Fictions of White Supremacy

The Color of Sex

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: February 2001

Author: Mason Stokes

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In The Color of Sex Mason Stokes offers new ways of thinking about whiteness by exploring its surprisingly ambivalent partnership with heterosexuality. Stokes examines a wide range of white-supremacist American texts written and produced between 1852 and 1915—literary romances, dime novels, religious and scientific tracts, film—and exposes whiteness as a tangled network of racial and sexual desire. Stokes locates these white-supremacist texts amid the anti-racist efforts of African American writers and activists, deepening our understanding of both American and African American literary and cultural history.
The Color of Sex reveals what happens when race and sexuality meet, when white desire encounters its own ambivalence. As Stokes argues, whiteness and heterosexuality exist in anxious relation to one another. Mutually invested in “the normal,” they support each other in their desperate insistence on the cultural logic of exclusion. At the same time, however, they threaten one another in their attempt to create and sustain a white future, since reproducing whiteness necessarily involves the risk of contamination
Charting the curious movements of this “white heterosexuality,” The Color of Sex inaugurates a new moment in our ongoing attempt to understand the frenzied interplay of race and sexuality in America. As such, it will appeal to scholars interested in race theory, sexuality studies, and American history, culture, and literature.


“[S]avvy insights, combined with lucid accounts of a hegemonic identity uneasily triangulated amid racial contamination and gender confusion, make it an indispensable guide for anyone revisiting that ground.” — Russ Castronovo , American Literary History

“Stokes offers a smart and compelling demonstration that literary scholars must understand the antithetical racist pressures African American authors faced . . . . To buttress his arguments, Stokes provides sustained, insightful readings of such forgotten works as Charles Jacobs Peterson’s anti-Uncle Tom novel The Cabin and the Parlor (1852) and Metta Victor’s Maum Guinea and her Plantation ‘Children’ (1861), as well as better-known works by Charles Chesnutt and Thomas Dixon.” — D. J. Rosenthal , Choice

"[A] smart and provocative book . . . delivered in prose that is always lively and sometimes elegant . . . . The Color of Sex is a fine book, not only for what it shows us about whiteness and heterosexuality but for how it does so." — Adele Perry , Journal of the History of Sexuality

"[A]mbitious . . . . [T]here is no doubt that the source material is invaluable. . . . [T]he book clearly makes a contribution to existing scholarship by reference to newly unearthed and reconsidered historical material and will be of interest to the many scholars for whom whiteness studies is a concern." — Jennifer DeVere Brody , Journal of American History

"Stokes has made an important contribution to emerging scholarship on the entanglements of racial and sexual identity." — Diane McKay , American Literature

“A stunningly conceived, lucidly written, well supported, nuanced, and absolutely compelling analysis of a culturally repressed and underanalyzed body of important literary materials. Stokes demonstrates with amplifying brilliance the operative interdependence of whiteness and normative heterosexuality.” — Dana Nelson, author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men

“An engaging and well written exploration of nineteenth-century ‘fictions’ of white supremacy that manages to combine wit and erudition.” — Gayle Wald, author of Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth Century U.S. Literature and Culture


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mason Stokes is Assistant Professor of English at Skidmore College.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: White Fictions

1. “De White Man in Season”

2. Sympathy and Symmetry: The Romance of Slavery in Metta V. Victor’s Maum Guinea and her Plantation “Children”

3. Someone’s in the Garden with Eve: Race, Religion, and the American Fall

4. Charles Chesnutt and the Masturbating Boy: Onanism, Whiteness, and The Marrow of Tradition

5. White Sex: Thomas Dixon Jr. and the Erotics of White Supremacy

6. Becoming Visible: I’m White, Therefore I’m Anxious

Epilogue: The Queer Face of Whiteness


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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2620-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2626-7
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