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Stimulants, Sex, and the Body in Early Modern Europe

Fri, April 1, 5:30 to 7:00pm, Park Plaza, Floor: Fourth Floor, Tremont Room


Historians have noticed the ways in which early modern Europeans used sexualized language to discuss the new “soft drugs” like tobacco, coffee, tea, distilled spirits, and opium. But we haven’t yet taken this discourse very seriously (except when studying chocolate and its association with courtship), partly because so much of the talk about sex and drugs was intended to be humorous. However, if we look past the joking, their remarks about sex and drugs speak to profound concerns about what the new intoxicants might do to their bodies, minds, and wills. Examining the sexual commentary about soft drugs in English, French, Italian, and Spanish sources gives us an avenue to explore anxieties about fecundity, the body, and the larger social changes that accompanied new habits of consumption.