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Histories of Sexuality, Religion, and American Culture

Public Confessions: The Religious Conversions that Changed American Politics

October 2021! Pre-order with code 01DAH40 for 40% off!


Personal reinvention, from relatively minor changes like a nickname to major transformations in gender identity, is a core part of the human condition. New identities can help people cast off an unappealing past, align with a group in which one seeks membership, or attain personal or professional goals.  


The second half of the twentieth century was marked by a startling number of religious conversions among American celebrities, becoming fodder—often critical—for newspapers and gossip columns.  Rebecca L. Davis reveals how the contradictory pressures to conform to a specific vision of Americanism and to celebrate the freedom of religion made conversions both attractive and threatening to the American public. Through lively stories of individuals' conversions, we learn that the act of changing religions was often viewed as selfish, reckless, and nonconformist, but it also accomplished significant political work.

Heterosexual Histories

cover image for Heterosexual History, edited by Rebecca L. Davis and Michele Mitchell, cover has left half white and right half red

A collection of original essays by leading scholars of the history of sexuality, who explore how and why "heterosexuality" matters across four hundred years of North American history.


Rebecca discusses heterosexuality's history and Valentine's Day


Order now from NYU Press with code HETERO30 for a 30% discount!

More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss

An astute, engaging, and disturbing history.
--Jill Lepore (New Yorker)


This book is a must-read for scholars in women's history and gender studies.
--Norma Basch (Journal of American History)


A deeply researched and readable work... Many more insights await the reader in this gem of a study, rich with detail culled from case histories, personal letters and many other archival sources.
--Nancy L. Roberts (Catholic News Service)


More Perfect Unions is...a useful, and usefully provocative, book. It should find a durable life in the discourse of marriage and gender studies.
--Jim Cullen (History News Network)


"There could hardly be a more opportune time to have at hand Rebecca Davis's smart, thoughtful, and meticulously-researched new book of social history." -- Bella DePaulo, Living Single blog,

“Purity and Population: American Jews, Marriage, and Sexuality”

In Devotions and Desires: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the Twentieth Century United States, edited by Gillian Frank, Bethany Moreton, and Heather White, 54-70. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

“‘My Homosexuality is Getting Worse Every Day’: Norman Vincent Peale, Psychiatry, and the Liberal Protestant Response to Same-Sex Desires in Mid-Twentieth Century America"

In American Christianities: A History of Dominance and Diversity, edited by Catherine Brekus and W. Clark Gilpin, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.


Winner of the 2012 LGBT Religious History Award.


A survey of how scholars have interpreted the religious meanings of the American family
In The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America, edited by Philip Goff, 2010

"Eroticized Wives: Evangelical Marriage Guides and God’s Plan for the Christian Family"

In The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianity, edited by Margaret Kamitsuka. 165-179. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

"'Not Marriage at All, but Simple Harlotry': The Companionate Marriage Controversy"

Journal of American History, 94, no. 4 (March 2008): 1137-1163