Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style. Cold War East, Sex & Gender
This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the year synonymous with rebellion, change and – sexual liberation. But this is a decidedly Western anniversary. Sexual life in the East had a trajectory of its own. I will show, how important aspects of sexuality in one of the Eastern countries, Czechoslovakia, were freed already in 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. By the late stages, known as 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, I will show, based on 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.
Kateřina Lišková, PhD is Associate Professor in gender studies and sociology at Masaryk University, Czech Republic. Her research is focused on gender, sexuality, and the social organization of intimacy, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently she is a Fellow at Technische Universität in Berlin. In the past, she was affiliated with Columbia University as a Marie Curie Fellow, New School for Social Research as a Fulbright Scholar, as a Visiting Scholar with New York University and as a Fellow with the Imre Kertész Kolleg in Jena, Germany. Her research on gender, sexuality and expertise under state socialism has just been published by Cambridge University Press in a monograph titled Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–89.
Image credit: impression from the cover of the book by Kateřina Lišková, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–89 (Cambridge University Press, 2018).