Women and Gender Seminar: Elizabeth Pleck, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, January 11, 2008

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

“Cohabitation and Small Town America in 1971”
Elizabeth Pleck, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This paper examines the persecution of a cohabiting couple in Southern Wisconsin in 1971. The sexual revolution always had a powerful geographic dimension, between what was acceptable in cities and what was acceptable in small towns where sexual morality was enforced and policed. Small town America was the battleground for differing views about cohabitation in the 1970s. Cohabitation was stigmatized behavior, behavior that shamed and discredited the person in the eyes of the community. The stigma of cohabitation was enforced through the intervention of neighbors, the press, public employers, the police and the courts. In this particular case the major victim was not a woman but a man because he was a public employee who worked directly with youth.