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The Long Sexual RevolutionEnglish Women, Sex, and Contraception 1800-1975$
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Hera Cook

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199252183

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199252183.001.0001

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‘Physical “Open Secrets”’: Hygiene, Masturbation, Bowel Control, and Abstinence

‘Physical “Open Secrets”’: Hygiene, Masturbation, Bowel Control, and Abstinence

(p.143) 6 ‘Physical “Open Secrets”’: Hygiene, Masturbation, Bowel Control, and Abstinence
The Long Sexual Revolution

Hera Cook (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the changes in attitudes to the body and sexual attitudes that were necessary to achieve a fall in birth rates using the limited available methods of contraception. Repressive attitudes to children's bodies, including rigid standards of hygiene, toilet training, bowel control, and the labelling of all genital contact as masturbation, are discussed. Adults who had been frequently subjected to such a regime viwed their genitals and physical sexual desire as disturbing, even disgusting. In this context of sexual prudery, the practice of partial sexual abstinence or low frequencies of intercourse was normalized. The chapter concludes with a discussion of a study of female vaginismus in the 1950s, which suggests levels of extreme anxiety would have been high in the interwar period.

Keywords:   toilet training, genitals, birth control, sexuality, vaginismus, prudery

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