Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

Synopsis

Reforming Sex reconstructs the complicated history of a movement that has been romanticized as the harbinger of 1960s sexual radicalism and demonized as a precursor to Nazi racial policy, but mostly buried and obscured by Nazi bookburnings and repression. Relying on a broad range of sources--from police reports, films and personal interviews to sex manuals unearthed from library basements and secondhand bookstores--the book analyzes a remarkable mass mobilization during the turbulent and innovative Weimar years of doctors and laypeople for women's right to abortion and public access to birth control and sex education.

Excerpt

This book describes a mass social movement for accessible birth control and legal abortion that included several hundred-thousand working-class members of grassroots sex reform leagues, physicians who staffed birth control clinics and lectured on sexual hygiene, and political activists and health officials who campaigned for abortion law reform. The movement transgressed conventional political and professional divisions and encompassed Social Democrats, Communists, independent feminists, intellectuals and professionals, even contraceptive manufacturers and "quack" abortionists, as well as thousands of people seeking safe, inexpensive, and available birth control and sex advice.

Reforming Sex focuses first on the organization and politics of the movement for sex reform during the tense, chaotic, and immensely innovative years of the late Weimar Republic. It goes on to discuss the fate of German sex reform (and sex reformers) both within and outside Germany from 1933 until the end of the immediate postwar period around 1950. The book crosses conventional chronological and geographic boundaries. It spans the political divides of 1933 and 1945 and insists that the movement extended well beyond Germany's borders. I believe that this focus can shed a new and different light on the persistent controversies over continuity and break in modem German history, the singularity and comparability of National Socialism, and especially the degree to which the Third Reich can or should be integrated into a long‐ term development of modernity and a technologized society. To put it another way, I hope that by expanding the view beyond Germany and interrupting—although certainly not ignoring—the usual focus in studies of social . . .

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