Rachel Hope Cleves

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Rachel Hope Cleves
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Rachel Hope Cleves (born 1975) is an American-Canadian historian, specializing in early American history with research areas including gender and sexuality. Her most relevant work for MAPs and their allies is her 2020 article and book-length study on once-famous historical libertine / sex-positive MAP figure Norman Douglas. Her book on Douglas, titled Unspeakable: A Life Beyond Sexual Morality (University of Chicago Press, 2020),[1] reviewed by the Percy Foundation,[2] was awarded the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize by the Canadian Historical Association in 2021. The award recognizes the best scholarly book in a field other than Canadian history.[3][4]

Cleves has written many other relevant articles. In 2020, she co-authored an open-access introduction to a special issue on Restoring Intergenerational Dynamics to Queer History,[5] along with a separate article on Douglas.[6] She has also written a general article on the history of intergenerational sex, "From pederasty to pedophilia", in 2017.[7] In an academic blog ("Notches", 10 May, 2022),[8] which includes scholarly commentaries on Unspeakable by critical thinkers such as Joseph J. Fischel and Jana Funke, Cleves uses the term "heretic" / "heretical" to describe the views expressed on the blog, including her own, after declaring that "paedophiles are not monsters."

For the Washington Times, she has written that "Roy Moore is not a pedophile" (2017),[9] and for the Conversation (2019),[10] compared the legacy of Michael Jackson to Norman Douglas. Her writing is unique for using an "abuse" framework whilst also being willing to complicate it, acknowledging the reality of former young people's perspectives and self-perception which do not easily fit an abuse/victim/survivor framework. In the case of Norman Douglas, his younger counterparts often considered their meeting Douglas to be one of the best things to have ever happened to them, and remained friends with Douglas into later life. Her book states that she feels "misplaced sympathy" for Douglas, and makes very clear that she does not support sexual relationships between pre-pubescents and adults. As the Percy Foundation review argues,[11] there is much to criticize in her work.

2023 controversy

In April 2023, Cleves was pilloried by American conservatives on a Twitter thread[12] that included the anti-semitic "Every Time" trope, as applied to her sympathy for MAPs (she is part Jewish heritage).[13] The moral panic was muted among conservative/right wing outlets such as the Daily Caller,[14] and her university faculty profile[15] stated that she was "on leave", while she set her Twitter account to private.


Prue (Editorial Lead: Social History and Critical Theory).

Compared to Allyn Walker, Karl Andersson and Jacob Breslow who were subject to national media attention, we at Newgon are confident that Cleves, an award winning tenured faculty member who has worked at the same university since 2009, will withstand this media scrutiny. We recommend the Percy Foundation's detailed review of her work as cited in our Norman Douglas page, and we have noted Cleves' use of Gayle Rubin's 'Charmed Circle' theory and partly similar thinking to deceased MAP figure Roger Moody.

External links