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Honor And Gender

There were alternate types of morality based on gender. Male morality had little to do with prudent sexuality. In fact, men enhanced their honor at times by seducing women. In seventeenth-century Spain there was even a fashion in the upper circles of trying to seduce nuns. On the other hand, women protected family honor by remaining virginal until marriage or the taking of order and then remaining chaste within the bounds of their status. Straying from this model of sexual purity not only besmirched the honor of the woman in question but also that of any man considered responsible for her conduct—usually husbands, brothers, or fathers.

To be honorable, a woman had to demonstrate her chastity. Traditional studies of honor systems understood this female imperative as passive, in contrast to the active role of the patriarch as defender of female honor. More recent scholarship has found that women took a more active role, from actual physical violence to hidden pregnancies and "adoptions" of illegitimate children. Ann Twinam has shown that illegitimacy could be overcome in colonial Spanish America through a bureaucratic process, and other scholars have demonstrated how stains on honor were often overlooked particularly for the elite. For plebeian women, such exemptions were not available. The establishment of foundling homes was a response to these women's predicaments, both to protect their reputations and to rescue their babies from infanticide.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Heterodyne to Hydrazoic acidHonor - Early Conceptualizations Of Honor, Public Expressions Of Honor, Honor And Gender, Honor And Violence