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The Perils of the Back Seat: Date Rape, Race and Gender in 1950s America
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The Perils of the Back Seat: Date Rape, Race and Gender in 1950s America

Author: Lisa Lindquist Dorr
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication:Gender & History, 20, no. 1 (2008): 27-47
Database:ArticleFirst
Other Databases: ElsevierBritish Library Serials
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Document Type: Article
All Authors / Contributors: Lisa Lindquist Dorr
ISSN:0953-5233
Language Note: English
Unique Identifier: 437835416
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schema:description"Dating among white American teenagers in the 1950s caused parents considerable concern, as it represented disturbing developments in sexual expectations. While the rhetoric surrounding marriage celebrated traditional gender roles and monogamy, Americans bemoaned social and moral decay, caused in part by women's encroachment on male prerogatives. Sexual experience for boys increasingly became a defining gender characteristic and a means of achieving manhood as well. Ideas about proper marital norms and studies of dating practices among young people naturalised male aggression as proof of masculinity, which made girls, even ‘respectable ones’, vulnerable to violence from their dates. As teens' acceptance of going steady became more widespread, older racialised narratives of sexual danger evolved to incorporate new dating trends. Whereas American, and especially southern white, women knew the dangers of the supposed ‘black beast rapist’, they learnt during the 1950s that a special danger could confront them in the back seat of cars, despite the presence of their white, male date. Even with a white protector, white women remained vulnerable to violence on dates, whether from black men or from their white date. As dating conventions loosened, white women found that that the perils of the back seat only increased."
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