Sex can be an oppressive force, a tool to shame, divide, and control a population. But it can also be a force for change, for the legal and physical challenge of inequity and injustice. In "West of Sex", Pablo Mitchell uses court transcripts and criminal cases to provide the first coherent picture of Mexican-American sexuality at the turn of the twentieth century, and a truly revelatory look at sexual identity in the borderlands. As Mexicans faced a rising tide of racial intolerance in the American West, some found cracks in the legal system that enabled them to assert their rights as full citizens, despite institutional hostility. In these chapters, Mitchell offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of ethnicity and power in the United States, placing ordinary Mexican women and men at the center of the story of American sex, colonialism, and belonging. Other chapters discuss topics like prostitution, same-sex intimacy, sexual violence, interracial romance, and marriage with an impressive level of detail and complexity. Written in vivid and accessible prose, "West of Sex" offers readers a new vision of sex and race in American history.
Pablo Mitchell is associate professor of history and comparative American studies at Oberlin College. He is the author of Coyote Nation: Sexuality, Race, and Conquest in Modernizing New Mexico, 1880-1920.