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

By Hera Cook | Go to book overview

8
'The Wonderful Tides': Sexual Emotion
and Sexual Ignorance in the 1920s

Married Love (1918) by Marie Stopes (1880–1958) transformed the discourse on heterosexual female sexuality and sexual practice. In 1972, The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort (1920–2000) was the last influential text to be published in the discourse Stopes had established, before second-wave feminism once more transformed the terms of the discourse regarding sexuality. In the following chapters the content of all sex manuals found that were published in Britain between these dates is analysed. Sex manuals have been defined for the purposes of this research as legally available books intended for women and/or men to read in order to obtain knowledge about their own body and that of the opposite sex, and about physical sexual practice, primarily sexual intercourse (or coitus). As this suggests, the genre is almost exclusively concerned with heterosexual sexual practice. Some of these manuals contain only a few pages describing the body or discussing physical sexual practice while others consist of little else. This definition includes books ranging from religious texts that delicately skim over the topic of the physical body and its needs to chapters on sexuality in medical health guides. A few texts omit birth control but the majority give the topic considerable space. Sex manuals have been described as marriage manuals by some researchers. While there is considerable overlap between the genres there are also significant differences. Marriage manuals are concerned with the marital relationship, of which sexuality is only a part, and many sex manuals also addressed the unmarried. Appendix A contains a list of the 104 manual authors found and an analysis of their characteristics, including gender, occupation, and so forth. No attempt was made to find all

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