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Sexualities SEX, SCANDAL AND REPUTATION in Early California

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Performance | History | Healthcare | Education
Free event with registration
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About this event
A few days before Christmas in 1896, a Los Angeles courtroom filled to standing-room-only capacity as the public listened to Josefa Valenzuela describe her seduction by her employer who had promised to marry her. The Valenzuela-Higuera breach of marriage promise case was one of several in early California that revealed how class and ethnicity shaped public discourses and perceptions of sex crime victims and illicit sex. Who received the benefit of the doubt in sex scandals and sex crimes and who did not?

In this talk, historian Erika Pérez will discuss her ongoing research on sex scandals and sex crimes in 19th-century California, focusing on a few specific legal cases and newspaper accounts to illustrate popular debates and societal anxiety about female sexuality, courtship, and the absence of patriarchal protection. Pérez will also examine what lessons we might draw by studying historical, as well as more recent, cases of sex crimes, sex scandals, and abuse.

This free lecture is part of the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Downtown Lecture Series, which will focus on Sexualities, exploring the complex ways that gender and sexuality shape our lives, from the intimate to the institutional. Speakers for this year’s series will address the cultural impacts of drag performance, 19th-century sex scandals, reproductive justice, and how gender and sexuality are taught (or not taught) in schools. You can read more information about the series and speakers at https://sbs.arizona.edu/dls-2022.

About the Speaker
Erika Pérez is an associate professor in the Department of History in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her first book Colonial Intimacies: Interethnic Kinship, Sexuality, and Marriage in Southern California, 1769-1885 shows how people wielded and responded to colonial power in their everyday intimate encounters. She is currently working on a multiracial, multiethnic history of sexuality, gender, and the law in 19th-century California, which includes research on working-class women’s sex work and moral panics regulating sexuality and vice.

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The 2022 Downtown Lecture Series will focus on Sexualities, exploring the complex ways that gender and sexuality shape our lives, from the intimate to the institutional. Curated by anthropologist Eric Plemons, this year’s series will address the cultural impacts of drag performance, 19th-century sex scandals, reproductive justice, and how gender and sexuality are taught (or not taught) in schools.

Launched in 2013, the Downtown Lecture Series was created to bring the university and Tucson community together in vibrant downtown Tucson to learn about topics that relate to our everyday lives. Over the years, SBS faculty – along with university and community colleagues – have shared their expertise, adding both clarity and complexity to important and fascinating social topics. The series has focused on happiness, food, immortality, privacy, truth and trust in the global scene, music, animals, woman power, and compassion.

More info on the specific speakers and topics can be found by clicking here, which will take you to the college’s website.

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