The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception, 1800-1975

By Hera Cook | Go to book overview

9
'The Spontaneous Feeling of Shame':
Masturbation and Freud 1930–1940

In the 1920s and 1930s, British sexual culture was shaped by an almost abstract perception of sexuality as a negative force that had to be restricted and controlled in whatever form it occurred. The genitals were not primarily a source of pleasure but a part of the body to avoid and think about as little as possible. The major shift that occurred in the sex manuals of the 1930s was a move away from acceptance of this feeling of shame and fear to promotion of a more positive conception of the body and sexuality. While the manuals do challenge male control of sexual activity in new ways during the 1930s, the challenge is largely indirect, and it comes about from the desire of both men and women that women should experience sexual pleasure. The redefinition of masturbation which took place during the inter-war decades had more impact than any direct challenge to gender relations on sexual practice in the 1930s. Attitudes to masturbation concerned not only the relation of the individual to their own body but their approach to the body of a sexual partner. The limits that these inhibitions about the body placed on physical sexual practice were severe.


CLITORAL STIMULATION

The previous chapter described how first Marie Stopes, and then the manual authors that came after her, told husbands that they must court or woo their wife on each and every occasion they had intercourse. In other words, their wife too must be aroused and desire to have intercourse. Then, during intercourse, men were told to delay their

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