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Birth Control, Sex, and Marriage in Britain 1918-1960$
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Kate Fisher

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267361.001.0001

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‘she was pleased to leave it to me’ 1

‘she was pleased to leave it to me’ 1

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Birth Control, Sex, and Marriage in Britain 1918-1960

Kate Fisher (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Challenging the assumption that women were the driving force behind the decline in family size in Britain, this chapter explores the finding that between the 1920s and the 1950s, it was husbands, not wives, who rooted out birth control information, framed contraceptive strategies for the family, and put these into practice. This phenomenon should not be seen as evidence of women's increasing ability to pressurize men to do their bidding. Rather, the increased use of contraception during the first half of the 20th century is revealed to be a story of men's power over a couple's sexual relationship. However, women saw male control of contraception as both appropriate and personally advantageous. Embarrassed by issues associated with sex and wedded to notions of respectability which valued women's sexual innocence and passivity, women had much invested in a world which constructed contraceptive responsibility as a male duty.

Keywords:   masculinity, male roles, sexual identities, femininity, conjugal relationship, marital power, gender roles, companionate marriage, husbands, wives

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