American life: living in the USA, basic features of the American,
interesting parties of the American character
I. Theoretical part
Living in the USA
Sports and recreation
2. The basic features of the American
а) American national character in popular culture
б) Character of the peasants
3. The interesting parties of the American character
а) American Sexual Character
II. Practical part
1. Living in the USA
a) Social custom
Forms of address. In U.S. culture, there are three titles which can be
used for women -miss, mrs. and ms, and one for men – mr. The title “dr.”
is used in academic settings. Some professors will prefer to be
addressed by their first name. In the U.S., people tend to be informal.
Personal space and handshaking. Americans tend to guard their personal
space. Generally people stand 61 cm apart. People in the u.s. shake
hands when they are first introduced. Touching the elbow or kissing the
hand are considered too intimate.
Hello and goodbye. Americans are friendly. Strangers may smile to you
and say “hello” or “how are you?”- it is a U.S. version of politeness.
In U.S. culture one “hello” per day is sometimes not enough. There may
be many hellos in a day but the good-byes are too few. One will often
leave the room without saying “excuse me” or “goodbye”. Students in a
rush to get to the next class, may not say “good-bye” or “thank you”. It
is customary to say “good-bye” at the end of the working day.
The U.S. Public Face. Besides greetings from complete strangers in
public places visitors can expect – loud laughter, singing, whistling,
yelling, running and skipping. Children may play ball or skateboard on
sidewalks. When people converse, they often use sweeping hand gestures,
use direct eye contact, and tend to smile a lot.
Speech. People in the U.S. also tend to be informal. They use a lot of
slang. There are also differences in American and British English.
In the U.S. classroom. Europeans are surprised by the teachers’ informal
atmosphere of U.S. classrooms. Thy may eat, drink or chew gum in the
classroom. Teachers have a right, however, to ask their students not to
do these things in their classroom. Students also dress rather
informally. Students often wear jeans and tennis shoes to class. Jeans
are often purposely ripped for a “stylish” effect. Some students wear
revealing clothing -short skirts, tank tops, and sheer clothing.
Students also sk rather informally, sometimes on their own legs or
cross-legged. Students often rush to and from classes without saying
hello or good-bye to teachers. Sometimes students Come into classrooms
after the class period has begun, or leave before it has ended. They say
nothing to the teacher, since they may consider that interrupting would
Dress. People in the U.S. wear different types of clothing in different
situations. Students often wear informal clothing. Professors dress in
more formal, yet comfortable clothing. It is appropriate to alternate
clothing daily. People often wear different combinations of three or
four outfits. They mix and match a few shirts with 3 or 4 pairs of pants
Smoking is prohibited in elevators and some bathrooms, on buses,
subways, on all domestic airline flights and most public buildings
/museums, markets, classrooms and offices/. Violators are subject to
fines. It is polite to ask your companions if they mind if you smoke.
Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages. The purchase of alcoholic beverages
by or for people under the age of 21 is unlawful in the U.S. It is also
prohibited on many university campuses. No beer or alcoholic beverages
may be consumed in public areas, including streets and parks.
ATTITUDES AND VALUES IN THE U.S.
Individuality and independence. People in the U.S. consider themselves
individuals. They value independence and self-reliance. Children are
encouraged to think and do things on their own. The educational system
seeks to cultivate an adult who can manage his/her life independently.
Frankness and Curiosity. Directness is a desirable trait in the U.S.
people often respond to questions in a frank manner. People are quick to
get to the point. In the classroom frankly disagree with a professor and
express their own opinion. People in the U.S. are eager to learn. Their
curiosity may lead them to ask many questions.
Privacy. People in the U.S. feel comfortable answering most personal
questions. However, some people may take offence to certain questions
regarding personal finances, house or car costs, family details and
Achievement. People in the U.S. tend to value personal achievements.
This lends to the competitive nature of U.S. society. Honor codes are
taken very seriously.
Materialism. Some people in the U.S. take great pride in their
possessions as measures of their success. How ever, there are many
people who do not agree with this definition of success.
Time Orientation. People in the U.S. value time. They are often rushing
around. This creates a very rapid pace of life. They keep very busy even
during their leisure time. People punctuality is respected. There is a
great emphasis on meeting deadlines. U.S. society is focused on the
present and not the past.
International Naivete. Some people in the U.S. are relatively unaware of
other nations and cultures. They may ask questions which are very
uninformed and may even seem rude.
“Jet Lag” is the first of many adjustments which you will have to make
during your stay in the U.S. After the long flight, it may take some
days to rid yourself of sleepiness.
Cross-cultural adjustment comes next. Cultural shock happens to
everyone. There is a general cycle of emotional phases that a person
Phase 1 -“The honeymoon period”. This is a time in which everything will
seem new and interesting. You will be happy to explore.
Phase 2 – “Culture fatigue». You will realize that you will have to work
to adjust to a new culture. You may feel stressed, isolated, irritated,
homesick or unmotivated. You may begin to eat or sleep too much and even
believe that you are ill.
Phase 3 – ” Rejection of the host culture”. At this point you may feel
hostile toward the U.S. as the cause of your discomfort. You may wonder
how Americans live as they do. You may not want to speak English and may
withdraw from others.
Phase 4- “The new culture makes sense”. You will become more
self-confident and outgoing.
Phase 5 – “Adaptation to the new culture”. You will feel comfortable and
All these feelings are normal.
Meal Times. In the U.S. meals are usually served at the following times:
breakfast: 6:30-10:00 a.m., lunch: 11:30-2:00 p.m., dinner: 5:00
p.m.-8:00. Breakfast meals can vary from cereal and milk to eggs and
pancakes or French toast /slices of bread dipped in an egg and milk
batter and fried/. Lunch tends to be a lighter meal – a sandwich, yogurt
or a light entree. Dinner includes a main course of meat, poultry or
fish, accompanied by side dishes such as soup, salad and; vegetables.
Brunch, a common Sunday meal served between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., is
really a combination of breakfast and lunch.
Common dishes. There are a wide variety of foods, depending upon which
type of restaurant you go to. Some American-style restaurants have a
Appetizers are nachos /a tortilla chip topped with melted cheese/, chili
/a thick sauce of meat and pepper/, shrimp cocktail, raw vegetables and
dip, finger sandwiches, cheese and crackers. Soups are French onion,
chicken, vegetable, and soup of the day. Salads are regular, Greek,
chef, Caesar or spinach. Main Courses are steak, fried chicken, fish,
hamburgers, pasta and pizza. Hot and Cold Sandwiches are combinations of
ham, turkey, roast beef, chicken, tuna or egg salads etc., served
between two slices of bread. Beverages are coffee, tea, soft drinks,
mineral water and iced tea. Deserts are cakes, ice cream, frozen yogurt,
fruit, etc. Breakfast dishes are cold cereal and milk, warm cereal,
toast, yogurt, eggs, pancakes, French toast, waffles, etc.
Pot luck supper. Sometimes when the family gets together with other
families they have what’s called potluck supper. This is an informal
occasion, so people dress casually but nicely. Invitations can be
written or made by phone, and each person is asked to bring a dish of
food: starter, main course, salad or vegetable, or dessert. The hostess
knows how many of each kind of dishes but not exactly what the guests
will bring. That’s why it is called “pot luck”. It is a lovely surprise,
holding a dinner party what you are going to feed your guests.
As the guests arrive, they put their “pot” on the table and the meal is
served buffet-style. Drinks are provided, although some guests might
bring a bottle of wine as a present. It is a fun, and a relaxed way of
getting together with friends.
Restaurants. Americans eat out often. Fast food restaurants have wide
popularity. There are two types of restaurants in the U.S.: fast food
and full-service restaurants. The style of fast food restaurants is much
like that of cafeteria. Patrons go up to a counter to order their meal:
hamburgers, hot chicken sand-wiches, and pizza. It is then placed on a
plastic tray which patron brings to a table. A typical dinner costs from
$3.00 to $6.00. It is expected that patrons will finish within 30-45
minutes. In full-service restaurants a waiter comes to take the patrons’
order. Dinner can vary from $10.00 to $50.00. It is expected that
patrons will finish eating and leave restaurant within an hour. To
express satisfaction with service patrons will give a tip of 20% of the
bill. Small tips are given to coat check attendants /up to $1.00/, rest
room and car park attendants /50 cents/.
Water and ice. Most people in the U.S. drink tap water. Any cold
beverage you order will be served to you with ice unless you request
Historically, there was the Grand Exchange. Kernels of New World corn
became a yellow currency more valuable to the well-being of the world
than nuggets of gold. Potatoes kept famine from European villages. Sweet
potatoes eased China’s dependence on rice. Wheat from the Middle East
made North America’s Great Plains the “breadbasket of the world”. Five
centuries after it started, the Grand Exchange goes on.
c) Sports and recreation
In the U.S. of today football is the most popular spectator sport.
Baseball is now in second place. Football in the U.S. differs from
European rugby and soccer. It is the most “scientific” of all outdoor
team sports. There are hundreds of specific rules. Because of this
football has been called “an open air chess game”.
Basketball and volleyball are American in origin. The first basketball
game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. It was invented
as a game that would fill the empty period between the football season
/autumn/ and the baseball season /spring and summer/. Michael Jordan
/b.1954/, the leading scorer in American basketball has become a legend,
respected by millions of fans all over the world. Volleyball was first
played in 1895. During the WWI and WWII, American soldiers took
volleyball with them oversees and helped to make it popular.
Professional basketball games in the U.S. attract large numbers of fans.
Most of the games are televised live.
Hockey, baseball, football and basketball are the “four major sports”.
There are many other sports in America: golf, swimming, tennis,
marathons, track and field, bowling, archery, skiing, skating, squash
and badminton, rowing and sailing, weight-lifting, boxing, and
wrestling. 44% of all Americans take part in some athletic activities
once a day. Swimming, bicycling, fishing, jogging, calisthenics or
gymnastics, and bowling are American’s favorite participatory sports.
Americans like competition, by teams or as individuals. American schools
follow the tradition of all English-speaking societies in using sports
as teaching ‘social values”. Among these are teamwork, sportsmanship
/when Americans win they say, “well, we were just lucky”, and
persistence /not quitting/. Being intelligent and being good in sport is
an ideal. There are colleges which have excellent academic reputations
and are also good in sports. Stanford, UCLA, Michigan, Pennsylvania,
Harvard, and Yale are among them. Recently, a new rule has been adopted
which states that all college athletes must meet set academic standards.
If they do not, they are not allowed to take part in sports. Among all
professional football players in the FNL, more than a third have earned
Rules prevent any college athlete from accepting money. Most Americans
think that government should be kept separate from sports. The citizens
of Denver, Colorado, did not want the 1976 Winter Olympics there. They
voted “no” and the Olympics had to be held elsewhere. The residents of
Los Angeles voted for Summer Olympics in 1984. But they declared that
not one dollar of city funds could be spent on them. L.A. Olympics made
a profit of $100 million.
Leisure sports. There are many sporting activities which are a part of
daily American life. Most Americans who grow up in the North, grow up
with outdoor winter sports. Skating, sledding and tobogganing are very
popular. Fishing and hunting are extremely popular in all parts of the
country. There are 17 million hunters in the U.S. Hunting is strictly
controlled. There are many more fishermen /42 million/, and many more
lakes than bears. Only Minnesota is the land of “10,000 lakes”. There is
1 boat for every 25 people in the U.S. today. In Minnesota, one out of
seven people owns a boat. All water sports and activities are very
popular. They include swimming, skin diving, sailing, white-water
canoeing, water skiing and boat racing. The beaches are not crowded; so
long walks along the beaches are quite relaxing.
There are several unusual sports in the U.S. Americans will race just
about anything that has wheels: “Funny cars” with jet engines, pick-up
trucks with gigantic tires, etc. The first “people-powered” aircraft to
cross the English Channel was pedaled by an American. And the first
hot-air balloon to make it across the Atlantic had a crew from New
Mexico. Skate-boarding, wind-surfing, hang-gliding and triathlon
/swimming, bicycle racing /180 km/ and 42 km run / became very popular
in the U.S.
The U.S. economy is based on free enterprise system. The government
places regulations on economic practices. The nation’s gross domestic
product /GDP/ is about $6 trillion. Labor force is 50% /female – 46%/.
Unemployment rate is 5,5%. Federal budget per capita is $5,740 with
public debt $18,956 and personal income per capita $22,000.
Petroleum provides 40 %of energy. Natural gas generates 25%. Coal is the
source of 25%. Hydroelectricity and nuclear power generate 5% in
The U.S. has highly developed transport system. The country has 6,200,
000 km of streets and roads. The U.S. has 75 automobiles for every 100
people. Trucks carry 25% of the freight. The U.S. has 240.000 km of
railroad lines. They handle 35% of the freight. Airlines have 18% of all
passenger traffic and 1% of the freight. Chicago’s O’Hare International
airport is the world’s busiest. 15% of the freight traffic travels on
U.S. exports include aircraft, computers, plastic materials, metals and
paper, corn and wheat. The leading imports are automobiles, clothing,
shoes, toys, petroleum, iron, steel, paper, and medicines. Canada and
Japan are the country’s chief trading partners. In 1993, Mexico, Canada
and the U.S. signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The U.S. economy has faced problems from time to time. The problems
include recession, depression and inflation.
The American economy had to be built from the ground up. What was
achieved is amazing. By 1900, the U.S. has become the greatest
industrial nation, and its citizens enjoyed the highest standard of
living in the world. By the post- war era, the US was producing 50% of
the “gross world product”.
Today, the American economy no longer dominates the world as it did
then. But with 5 % of the world’s population and 6% of its land area,
the US still produces 25% of the world’s industrial products,
agricultural goods, and services. America has not dropped behind other
nations: its gross national product /GNP/ has tripled since the end of
America remains the world leader in a great many. Among these are
biochemical and genetic engineering, aerospace research, computer and
information services. America’s private industries are doing quite well.
American firms which sell passenger aircraft or computers retain the
largest share of the world market. The best selling car in the world is
a Ford /the Escort/.
Foreign investments in the U.S. amounted to $164 billion, with the UK
/$38 billion/ and Japan /$16 billion/.
The US is also the world’s leading agricultural nation. It grows 20% of
all the world’s wheat, corn, oats and sorghum with 3% of population
involved in agriculture. America not only feeds her own people but a
great many other people in the world as well. Agriculture accounts for
2% of the U.S. GDP and employs 3% of the nation’s workers. Yet the U.S.
is a world leader in agricultural production. About a third of the
world’s food exports come from U.S. farms. Beef cattle ranks as the most
valuable product. There are 2.100,000 farms in the U.S.
Many reasons have been offered to explain why the U.S. has been able to
go from a small economy to the leading industrial nation. One reason is
the size and the natural resources. The spirit of enterprise and
initiative has certainly played an important role. The American system
of government, too, has encouraged citizens to pursue their own economic
interest. Typically American constant willingness to experiment and
social and geographical mobility have also played a part. Many Americans
prefer to be their own bosses. 10 million Americans own their own
business, and 42.million own a part of business through stock.
The “very rich” in America give away much of their money before they
died. Carnegie gave away 5370 million of his $400 million for the
“benefit of community”.
2. The basic features of the American culture
а) American national character in popular culture
“The culture of the United States is a Western culture, and has been
developing since long before the United States became a country. Its
chief early influence was British culture, due to colonial ties with the
British that spread the English language, legal system and other
cultural inheritances. Other important influences came from other parts
of Europe, especially countries from which large numbers immigrated such
as Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Italy; the Native American peoples;
Africa, especially the western part, from which came the ancestors of
most African Americans; and young groups of immigrants. American culture
also has shared influence on the cultures of its neighbors in the New
The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot, but
recent academic opinion is tending towards cultural diversity, pluralism
and the image of a salad bowl rather than a melting pot.
Due to the extent of American culture there are many integrated but
unique subcultures within the United States. The culutral affliations an
individual in the United States may have commonly depend on social
class, political orientation and a multitude of demogrpahic
charateristics such as race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation. The
strongest influences on American culture came from northern European
cultures, most prominently from Germany, Ireland and England.  It is,
however, paramount to remember that there are great differences within
American culutre which should therefore under no circumstance be seen as
one large homogenous subject.
The American state of California (especially the Hollywood region) is
home to a thriving motion picture industry, with prominent film studios
such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, and MGM creating dozens of
multi-million dollar films every year that are enjoyed around the world.
American actors are often among the world’s most popular and easily
identified celebrities. It’s worth noting that Hollywood also tends to
attract many immigrant actors and directors from around the world, many
of whom, such as actor Russell Crowe or director Ang Lee become just as
famous and successful as American-born stars.
The United States was a leading pioneer of T.V. as an entertainment
medium, and the tradition remains strong to this day. Many American
television sitcoms dramas game shows and reality shows remain very
popular both in the US and abroad. Animation is a popular US
entertainment medium as well, both on the large and small screen. The
characters created by Walt Disney and Warner Brothers animation studios
remain very popular. In music, the United States has pioneered many
distinct genres, such as country and western, jazz, rock music, hip hop
and gospel. African-American cultural influences play a particularly
prominent role in many of these traditions.
b) Character of the peasants
American farmers of today lead vastly different lives from those of
their grandparents. Machines have eliminated much backbreaking farm
work. Farmers use machines to help them plow, plant seeds, harvest
crops, and deliver their products to market. Many farms have conveyor
systems so that the farmer no longer has to shovel feed to farm animals.
Milking machines make morning and evening chores easier. In the home,
farm families may have all the comforts and conveniences of city people.
In the 1900’s, the automobile, telephone, radio, and television have
brought U.S. farm families into close contact with the rest of the
The steady decline in the percentage of the country’s rural population
has slowed since 1970. Although many people continued to move away from
rural areas, others chose to move into rural towns and farm communities.
Many of the newcomers wanted to escape the overcrowding, pollution,
crime, and other problems that are part of life in urban areas and to
take advantage of benefits of country living. Rural areas have lower
crime rates and less pollution than urban areas. They are also far less
noisy and crowded.
Because of their small populations, rural communities collect less tax
revenues than urban communities do, and they generally cannot provide
the variety of services that urban areas can. For example, rural
communities have cultural and recreational facilities that are more
limited than those available in urban areas. For many rural Americans,
social life centers around family gatherings, church and school
activities, special interest clubs, and such events as state and county
Rural areas generally have less diversified economies than urban areas.
Because there are fewer and a smaller variety of jobs to choose from,
rural communities may experience more widespread economic hardships than
urban communities. A single economic downturn—a drop in farm prices, for
example, or the closing of a mine—can cause economic hardship for an
entire rural area.
The nation’s rural areas, like its urban areas, have wealthy, middle
class, and poor people. For the most part, however, the gaps between
economic classes are not as large in rural areas as in urban areas. Most
rural Americans live in single-family houses. The majority of the houses
are comfortable and in good condition. But some people, including many
who live in parts of Appalachia—in the eastern United States—and other
pockets of rural poverty, have run-down houses and enjoy few luxuries.
3. The interesting parties of the American character
а) American Sexual Character
In 1948 and 1953, the United States was rocked by events that observers
compared to the explosion of the atomic bomb: the publication of Sexual
Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,
respectively, popularly known as the Kinsey Reports. These two massive
sex surveys, compiled by the Indiana University zoologist Alfred Kinsey
and a team of researchers, graphically presented the results of
interviews with thousands of American men and women, including
information on their age at first intercourse, number of partners,
history of premarital and extramarital sex, incidence of homosexuality
and lesbianism, and virtually every other imaginable sexual statistic.
The studies’ findings shocked experts and the public alike, as Kinsey
demonstrated that much of Americans’ sexual activity took place outside
of marriage, and that the majority of the nation’s citizens had violated
accepted moral standards as well as state and federal laws in their
pursuit of sexual pleasure.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human
Female struck a nerve within the American public. Despite their complex
graphs and charts and abstruse scientific language, the volumes became
best-sellers and spurred unprecedented public discussion of national
sexual practices and ideologies. Praised by some experts for their
breadth, precision, and dispassionate approach to human sexuality, the
books were also the targets of virulent criticism and were widely
denounced as immoral, perverse, and damaging to the reputation of the
United States. Upon the appearance of the first volume, Kinsey was
simultaneously hailed as a liberator, denounced as a pornographer,
compared to the scientific martyrs Darwin and Copernicus, and declared a
Communist bent on destroying the American family, all themes that would
persist in discussions of his work. Public uproar over the volumes
spread well beyond the world of science, as millions of Americans
purchased and discussed them, rendering the reports’ vocabulary and
sensational findings a part of everyday knowledge. Kinsey’s statistics
on pre- and extramarital sex prompted a national forum on the state of
the nation’s morals and marriages, and his findings on the extent of
same-sex sexual behaviors spearheaded debate about homosexuality in the
United States. Omnipresent in postwar mass culture, the volumes featured
centrally in discussions of virtually every topic imaginable, as
references to the reports abounded in postwar political coverage, social
science and medical writing, general-interest journalism, and even
The first key term, American, alludes to the centrality of nationalism,
nation building, and national identity to postwar culture. A recent
resurgence of interest in nationalism has encouraged scholars to focus
less on traditionally defined political processes than on the social and
cultural processes that shaped changing conceptions of national
identity. In the introduction to a 1996 collection of essays on
nationalism, the historian Geoff Eley and the political scientist Ronald
Suny note that, “if politics is the ground upon which the category of
the nation was first proposed, culture was the terrain where it was
elaborated,” and they observe that recent literature has interrogated
the “need to constitute nations discursively through processes of
imaginative ideological labor–that is, the novelty of national culture,
its manufactured or invented character, as opposed to its deep
historical rootedness.” In Benedict Anderson’s influential model, every
nation is an “imagined community” in which citizens envision themselves
as units in a collective, “because the members of even the smallest
nation will never know their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of
them, yet in the minds of each they carry the image of communion.” It is
everyday beliefs and processes, not only spectacular events like wars,
parades, or elections, that create and reproduce national identity.
Identifying the 1950s as an era when interest in nationalism and nation
building peaked, scholars argue that between the 1940s and 1960s the
United States remade its economic, political, and social position, and
that the period was thus marked by struggles to reestablish old models
of nationhood and create new ones.
During the 1950s, the United States—at perhaps the last moment in which
many could still imagine a national public not riven by racial, class,
gender, and other differences—defined itself in relation to a
constellation of real and imaginary ideals, including both other nations
and idealized Americas of the past. New themes also spurred and shaped
postwar nation building. These included the postwar endorsement of
middle-class status for many previously excluded groups like white
ethnics and Jews; threats to the nation from the outside, such as the
rise of international Communism; and dangers from within, such as
Americans’ alleged laziness, sensuality, consumerism, or any of a host
of other characteristics. The very factors through which the nation
achieved and celebrated its postwar supremacy—possession of the atomic
bomb; an enduring democratic government in the face of fascism,
Communism, and revolutions abroad; economic prosperity; the mass
production of consumer goods; and a cultural focus on family bonds and
personal fulfillment—were double-edged swords. Nuclear knowledge made
the United States internationally powerful but also promoted widespread
fear and suspicion, and the specter of Communism prompted both
celebrations of American democracy and crippling suspicions about
internal subversion. Such paradoxes abounded in postwar culture: the
economic prosperity that funded single-family homes and supported
growing families also created new opportunities for single living, and
the consumer economy lauded by boosters was accused of promoting a
hedonism that subverted, rather than supported, national values.
The postwar era’s teachings about sex fit perfectly into this
contradictory pattern, as authorities simultaneously maintained that
sexuality had the potential to ruin families and community standards and
sought to harness its appeal for the maintenance of traditional
lifestyles. The second word of my title phrase, sexual, thus alludes to
the ways in which Americans brought sexuality into the public arena in
the decade and a half after the end of World War II, making it a
political and social topic as well as a personal one. The war changed
the sexual landscape for many Americans, as wartime economic and social
shifts promoted geographical and class mobility. War and its aftermath
furthered dialogue about which of the domestic crises associated with
war—desertion and failed marriages, promiscuity, same-sex sexual
relations, and so on—were temporary eruptions and which were here to
stay. When Kinsey’s first study appeared a few years later, it provided
vivid evidence of sexual change.
The reports, along with the host of other explorations of American
sexuality that appeared in their wake, were received not only as
collections of statistics but also as important statements about gender
difference, social change, and American identity. Topics such as the
increasingly direct depiction of sexual themes in the popular media, the
future of the nuclear family, and the importance of sexual pleasure in
marriage were also topics of heated discussion. Even more troubling to
many was “unnatural” sex, and campaigns targeting “perverts,” described
as a threat to American security interests, drummed suspected
homosexuals out of military and governmental service. As well as finding
a far higher incidence of same-sex sexual practices than many had
previously believed existed in the United States, the reports found that
sexual behaviors long believed to be the province of homosexuals,
including oral and anal sex, were in fact widely practiced by
heterosexuals. Most Americans, according to Kinsey, believed fervently
that “sexual behavior is either normal or abnormal, socially acceptable
or unacceptable, heterosexual or homosexual, and many persons do not
want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one
extreme to the other.” The report’s statistics made these convictions
increasingly untenable, as evidence suggested that the dividing line
between heterosexual and homosexual was increasingly blurred.
The nation’s changing sexual patterns were discussed by people across
the political spectrum, including self-defined sexual liberals,
libertarians, and conservatives. In postwar debates over sexuality,
however, traditional political labels were not always reliable or
helpful. The midcentury political consensus known as cold war liberalism
was a flexible and extensive category, and in battles where the cultural
and the political merged, seemingly similar concerns could emerge from
vastly different places. Conservatives and liberals alike, for example,
at some moments worried that Americans lacked basic sexual knowledge,
and at others lamented the omnipresence of sexual information in the
mass media. Both those who identified as sexual freethinkers and those
who embraced traditionalism critiqued Americans’ alleged materialism and
consumerism and complained that the modern focus on sex threatened to
rob it of emotional meaning.
Along with a host of conservative social scientists who argued that
national and international stability depended upon an immediate
desexualization of American mores and morals, liberals like the
sociologist David Riesman deemed the national focus on sex to be a new
and particularly dangerous form of consumerism that distracted modern
Americans from their civic duties. In an assessment of the assumptions
and motives of postwar authorities who produced information on American
sexuality, an important distinction emerges between sexual pessimists,
who foresaw the decline and collapse of the nation in changes in the
sexual status quo, and idealists, who envisioned a new sexual order as
liberating and empowering. Those who believed that sexual behaviors
outside marriage were potentially dangerous generally agreed that public
attention to matters of sex was pathological, while believers in sexual
liberalism cast the same behaviors as a welcome reversal of puritan
repression. The definition of sex as a liberatory force, along with the
belief that truths about sex can be unearthed and examined, was an
important concept in the twentieth-century United States.
In the years after World War II, political and sexual respectability
were closely linked and the social and political order that many saw as
crucial to national stability was based upon deeply polarized gender
roles and a conservative deployment of sexual energy. When the liberal
sexologist Albert Ellis charged that “most Americans are sexual
fascists,” his choice of terms underlined the connections many saw
between private behavior and the nation’s moral and political character
during the cold war. So too did charges that sexual investigators, or
certain sexual acts, were un-American or Communist. Sexual deviance,
whether understood as homosexual activity, promiscuity, interracial sex,
or any other arrangement that violated the prescribed path of monogamous
sexual expression within marriage, was coupled rhetorically with
political subversion. At the same time, the marital bond and the sexual
satisfaction identified with it were viewed as cornerstones of family
happiness and national stability. The tension between these two
themes—American sexuality as a sign of cultural disintegration and
political weakness or as the locus for familial and social
cohesion—shaped postwar discourse on sexuality. Whether commentators on
American sexual character championed new forms of sexual dissent or
called for a return to traditional practices and beliefs, they shared a
firm belief that Americans’ sexual behavior could and did shape their
moral character, civic roles, and political future.
Americans had worried and written about sex before, of course, and
observers had long drawn connections between the national interest and
sexual behavior by punishing sexual expression that took place outside
marriage or between “inappropriate” partners. The social purity
movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, agitation for
marriage reform in the 1920s, and intermittent campaigns against
prostitution all defined various forms of sexual misconduct as pressing
social problems and sought to correct them through education, moral
suasion, and punishment. In her work on racial and sexual violence, the
historian Lisa Duggan argues that legal and medical discourses work to
mobilize “a specifically American version of normative national
sexuality” based on proper gender roles, whiteness, and respectability.
The specifics of what counts as “normative national sexuality” have
varied: in the early nineteenth century, class- and race-based notions
of respectability were crucial to individual reputations and community
maintenance, while more recently the AIDS crisis has rendered concepts
of health and disease central to normative sexuality. Americans after
World War II, however, outstripped earlier generations in the fervor
with which they made sexuality a legitimate topic and the extent to
which they insisted on its relevance to postwar social problems. Experts
disagreed, often vehemently, about exactly what was wrong with modern
sexuality, but virtually all commentators who addressed the subject
diagnosed grave problems with American behavior and mores. Sex surveys
since the turn of the century had focused most often on bohemian
urbanites or on marginalized groups such as prisoners, the poor, and the
“feeble-minded,” reflecting investigators’ conflicts over whether sexual
behavior could best be understood by viewing the normative or the
abnormal. Kinsey’s postwar studies, and the public debates about sex
that they fostered, instead addressed the private behavior of “average”
Americans. Nonmarital and nonreproductive sexuality had often been the
subject of moral panic, but in the postwar United States even marital
heterosexual behaviors were studied and interrogated, believed to reveal
vital information about the state of the nation.
Ideas about American sexual character in the postwar United States were
part of a powerful discourse that imagined the nation as middle class,
white, and well assimilated to the dominant culture. As postwar industry
and increased access to higher education expanded, many Americans whose
ethnic or religious identities had kept them on the margins of the
American mainstream in previous generations took on or secured
middle-class status, culturally and economically. Americans who were
working class or nonwhite, along with those who transgressed gender
boundaries or violated moral codes, served as the outsiders against whom
the expanding middle class defined themselves. With these demographic
and cultural changes in mind, I attempt throughout the book to consider
the blind spots and silences of available sources. Some of these spring
from the ways in which the postwar authorities I read compartmentalized
their discussions of American sexuality. Although these authorities
addressed a wide range of issues in their analyses of social and sexual
change, some sexual issues and experiences received relatively little
attention: incest, intergenerational sex, and rape and other forms of
sexual violence, for example, were most often framed as criminal matters
rather than incorporated into discussions of everyday adult sexuality.
Other silences in my sources stem less from postwar experts’
organization of knowledge than from their assumptions about what
narratives, categories, and people mattered. Sexual literature
facilitated some viewpoints more than others, and authors were
predominantly male, overwhelmingly white, and drawn primarily from elite
groups like scientists, cultural critics, educators, and journalists.
Virtually all of them also had to negotiate issues of respectability and
prurience, positioning their work as sober fact, lurid sensationalism,
and every combination in between. In interrogating their work, I have
tried to consider the multiple roles of and silences about class,
racial, and other differences in postwar literature on national
character and sexuality, along with the ways in which these authors’
analyses were shaped by the subjects they chose and audiences they
Working with such work I learn a lot about Americans, about their
country, their cultury. Bat most of all it was very interesting to know
about their national character, their traditions, what do they think
about them, what do they say about them.
American society seems to be much more informal than the British and, in
some ways, is characterized by less social distinction. Students do not
rise when a teacher enters the room. One does not always address a
person by his title, such as “Major” or “General” or “Doctor” in the
case of a holder of a Doctor of Philosophy degree. The respectful “Sir”
is not always used in the northern and western parts of the country.
They use first names when calling each other, slap on the back, joke and
are much freer in their speech, which is more slangy than the
conventional British English. You will often hear the word “Hi” (a form
of greeting among friends) used instead of the usual “Hello,” and
“Howdy” instead of “How do you do?”
Those who don’t easily show these signs of friendship are called
“snooty” or “snobbish.” In contrast, people who show such simple signs
of friendship, particularly to their own economic and social inferiors,
are praised as “regular guys,” or as “truly democratic.” As a
description of character, democratic is generally used to signify that a
person of high social or economic status acts in such a way that his or
her inferiors are not reminded of their inferiority.
Yet, in spite of all the informality, Americans, even in the way they
address each other, show consciousness of social distinction. For
example, one is likely to use somewhat more formal language when talking
to superiors. While the informal “Hello” is an acceptable greeting from
employee to employer, the employee is more apt to say “Hello, Mr.
Ferguson,” while the employer may reply “Hello, Jim.” Southerners make a
point of saying “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, Ma’am,” or “No, sir,” or “No,
Ma’am,” when talking to an older person or a person in a position of
authority. While this is good form all over the United Stales, “Yes. Mr.
Weston” or “No, Mrs. Baker” is somewhat more common in a similar
situation in the North or West.
I mast say that United States of America is very interesting country and
people are very kindness, soft-hearted, believe God. The American way of
life is an expression that refers to the “lifestyle” of people living in
the United States. It is an example of a behavioral modality. Religion
plays an important role in the lives of millions of Americans. Most
Americans have a great deal of leisure time, and they spend it in a
variety of ways.
World Book Encyclopedia. U-V Volume 20.
Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans.
Portrait of the USA.
Culture, Hedonism and Lifestyle.
Social institutions in the United States.
Speeches in the EFL Classroom.
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