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Serpent in the Garden

'Serpent in the Garden' cover image

Serpent in the Garden

Amish Sexuality in a Changing World

The first book to examine the complexity of sexual identity, philosophy, and behavior in Amish culture.

The Amish offer a startling contrast to the postmodern view of sexuality and gender roles. After the sexual revolution of the 1960s, mainstream American culture never looked back. Meanwhile, the Amish never looked forward. In twenty-first-century Amish communities, heteronormative sexuality is still based on a unifying principle: an understanding of sexuality as emerging from a divine plan. In the eyes of the Amish, sex is squandered by those who embrace it as hedonistic or who carve out a sexual identity that moves them away from that singular, God-given purpose. But this communal emphasis on sex for procreation does not mean that the Amish do not possess a complex range of sexual identities and opinions.

In Serpent in the Garden, clinical psychologist James A. Cates breaks new ground in the study of Amish sexuality by examining this shrouded, rarely discussed subject. The first book to bring Amish sexuality into primary focus, this volume argues that, because the Amish are a sexual minority, queer theory is the ideal framework from which to observe their views on sex, sexuality, and gender. The book offers a broad view of sexuality in Amish culture that includes the challenges that gays and lesbians face in the community, as well as an exploration of Amish gender roles, their views toward intimacy, their responses to cases of child sexual abuse, and the role of fetishes among the Amish. Cates draws from multiple perspectives and years of research on the Amish themselves. He also looks at pushback against alternative behaviors or identities, as well as Amish success in keeping mainstream values at bay.

With this book, Cates establishes Amish sexuality as a topic worthy of professional attention. Offering readers a more sophisticated understanding of the Amish and of sexual expression among cultures, Serpent in the Garden will appeal to scholars working on gender and sexuality, the Amish, and social service professionals who serve the Amish community.