chapter
22 Pages

Introduction

ByAbby Coykendall and Ana de Freitas Boe

This chapter considers the John Wilkite cult of masculinity in terms of the expansion, not the inhibition, of male heterosexual license. It argues that the eighteenth century is the period that began to structure our modern regime of heteronormativity around the discourse of the closet. The chapter shows how Wilkite politicking both exemplifies and contributed to the Habermasian intersection of the public and the private at mid-century. It demonstrates the contribution of the Wilkite controversies in working out the ideological pattern for bourgeois heterosexual men during the long eighteenth century. The controversies surrounding Wilkes's radicalism during the early 1760s, particularly surrounding the Essay on Woman scandal, demonstrate instead that he continued to deploy a highly heteronormative-and hence highly politicized-rhetoric of privatized male heterosexuality. Wilkes advanced conceptions of the private and configured heterosexuality as nonpolitical at the expense of rendering the sodomitical the upmost sign of political illegitimacy.