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The recent historiography of sexuality in twentieth-century Germany

Fenemore, Mark (2009) The recent historiography of sexuality in twentieth-century Germany. The historical journal, 52 (3). pp. 763-779. ISSN 0018-246X


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This article sets out to explore the extent and to test the limits of the history of sexuality in twentieth-century Germany. It examines the ways in which sexuality can be explored from above and below. Drawing on medical-legal definitions of sexuality, feminist debates about sexuality, the science of sexology, and advice literature, the article sets out the state of debate together with ways that it might develop in the future. Arguing in favour of a milieu-specific history of sexuality, it suggests ways that the study of youth cultures and teenage magazines together with everyday, oral history and biographical approaches might help to arrive at this. It then goes on to chart new approaches, particularly with regard to sexuality in the Third Reich, and suggests ways that these reshape our understanding of sexuality in post-war Germany, East and West. Arguing against a reductive emphasis on a society being either ‘pro-’ or ‘anti-sex’ and calling for a clearer definition of what is meant by ‘sexual liberalization’, the article points to a more multi-layered and contradictory understanding of sexuality, which is still in the process of being written.

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