Socialist Sexualities: Expert Knowledge and Intimate Revolutions in Poland and Czechoslovakia

Wednesday, March 31, 2021, 12–1pm EDT
Live Video Stream
Series
Gender, Socialism, and Postsocialism Working Group
Event Status
Open to the Public

Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland (Indiana University Press 2021)
Agnieszka Kościańska, University of Warsaw, Poland
 
Behind the Iron Curtain, the politics of sexuality and gender were, in many ways, more progressive than the West. While Polish citizens undoubtedly suffered under the oppressive totalitarianism of socialism, abortion was legal, clear laws protected victims of rape, and it was relatively easy to legally change one's gender. In Gender, Pleasure, and Violence, Agnieszka Kościańska reveals that sexologists—experts such as physicians, therapists, and educators—not only treated patients but also held sex education classes at school, published regular columns in the press, and authored highly popular sex manuals that sold millions of copies. Yet strict gender roles within the home meant that true equality was never fully within reach. Drawing on interviews, participant observation, and archival work, Kościańska shares how professions like sexologists defined the notions of sexual pleasure and sexual violence under these sweeping cultural changes. By tracing the study of sexual human behavior as it was developed and professionalized in Poland since the 1960s, Gender, Pleasure, and Violence explores how the collapse of socialism brought both restrictions in gender rights and new opportunities.
 

Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
Kateřina Lišková, Masaryk University, Czech Republic

This is the first account of sexual liberation in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Kateřina Lišková reveals how, in the case of Czechoslovakia, important aspects of sexuality were already liberated during the 1950s - abortion was legalized, homosexuality decriminalized, the female orgasm came into experts' focus - and all that was underscored by an emphasis on gender equality. However, with the coming of Normalization, gender discourses reversed and women were to aspire to be caring mothers and docile wives. Good sex was to cement a lasting marriage and family. In contrast to the usual Western accounts highlighting the importance of social movements to sexual and gender freedom, here we discover, through the analysis of rich archival sources covering forty years of state socialism in Czechoslovakia, how experts, including sexologists, demographers, and psychologists, advised the state on population development, marriage and the family to shape the most intimate aspects of people's lives.

Register for Zoom webinar, or watch live on YouTube.

Remote video URL

Accessibility

The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or daviscenter@fas.harvard.edu in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.