Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Daniel C. Littlefield


The purpose of this research is to examine the Fancy Trade—the buying and selling of mixed-race enslaved women for the primary purpose of prostitution and concubinage—through an intersectionality lens. Therefore, I will explore a culture of rape through the lived experiences of fancy maids, the women who were sold as sex commodities in the 19th century domestic slave trade. Who was she? Using an intersectionality framework to answer the proposed questions will achieve the following. First, it will highlight the social constructions of race, gender, and sexuality within the 19th century southern context. Secondly, an intersectional methodology will explore the power relationships between enslaved women and white men and women. In addition, the examination will focus on the social institutional arrangements—ideological, political, and economic—that enforce commerce of rape in the antebellum south.

In my research I will show that the trilogy of ‘pleasure- rape- desire’ is as much a pillar of slavery as coerced labor. I argue that white patriarchy buttressed the rape of enslaved women because it was a means to degrade black femininity and masculinity. When these sexual conquests produced fair complexioned offspring, they further symbolized and reconfirmed white patriarchy. It was sadistic, erotic, and a repetitious cycle fueled by the legal structures and political economies of slave societies. Eventually it manifested into commerce of rape whereby white men could purchase enslaved women for the primary purpose of fulfilling their sexual desires and fantasies.


© 2015, Tiye A. Gordon

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