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Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History (New Approaches to European History)
Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History (New Approaches to European History)
By Dagmar Herzog
Cambridge University Press, 2011, 238 pp
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In this fascinating history, Herzog narrates Europe’s twentieth-century sexual revolution, citing two decisive causes of change: contraception and pornography. In 1900, only a few courageous activists advocated birth control, an idea rejected by a uniformly hostile public. The ironic result was that political and social authorities glorified brothels as necessary, even family-friendly outlets for frustrated husbands and portrayed prostitutes as naturally more sexually desirable than wives. Through the middle of the century, not only fascists but also conservative democrats blocked access to birth control and discouraged a wider acceptance of pornography. Not until the 1960s did the pill and pornography become widely available. New erotic roles for women, gay people, and others emerged. This was not, Herzog argues, primarily the work of New Left activists but rather the consequence of capitalism, which eroticized advertising, clothing, and popular culture. Ultimately, the tensions between commerce and legal repression grew too great, giving rise to more liberal policies. Yet these battles are not over, even in Europe, where religious and political opposition to contemporary sexual mores are still evident.