ABSTRACT

Once the reputation for m anhood had been won, it had to be continually proved and asserted, for m anhood was never wholly secure.1 As this chapter will show, the pivot on which m anhood rested was the control of female sexuality, and this gave male for­ tunes an unstable foundation. Even if men exercised reason and strength, they could never know with certainty whether a woman was chaste, nor could they ever rest easy as the maintenance of female chastity could never be guaranteed. Ironically, by resting m anhood on women’s sexuality, men had given women the poten­ tial for power, as their words and actions could endanger m anhood with the most devastating effect.