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

By Hera Cook | Go to book overview

10
'Thought Control': Conjugal Rights
and Vaginal Orgasms 1940s–1960s

Legal and social attitudes had loosened considerably by the end of the 1930s. The trends toward sexual liberalization and libertinism and reassertion of male domination within the discourse on sexuality, which were to shape the post-war decades, were also well established. Nonetheless, many of the individuals who produced the inter-war sex manuals were progressive and strongly influenced by feminism. In the mid-1940s, there was a hiatus caused by the Second World War, during which no new manuals came out. Following this pause, manuals became considerably easier to obtain than had been the case before the war, but the content of the manuals gives no indication that the actual wartime experience caused any substantial change in sexual attitudes. However, more of the new post-war authors were professional writers motivated by the growing profits to be made, and the ideas and attitudes toward sexuality these authors expressed were less idealistic than those of the inter-war authors.

American manuals appear more frequently in this chapter than the previous two because they had a greater influence in this period. The increasing availability of American material was a major development following the Second World War. Peggy Makin, a well-known agony aunt called Evelyn Home, who had been working as a magazine journalist since the early 1930s, described the effect of this:

[J]ust after the war… the load of imported literature from all over the world, especially the United States, had begun to soften up our publishing conventions. American women's magazines were running whole articles on taboo topics such as masturbation and its morals; our readers were buying these publications on

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