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Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style
Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989


  • Date Published: May 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108424691

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About the Authors
  • This is the first account of sexual liberation in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Kateřina Lišková reveals how, in the case of Czechoslovakia, important aspects of sexuality were already liberated during 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. However, with the coming of 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, here we discover, through 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.

    • The first systematic analysis of sexuality and gender in postwar Czechoslovakia
    • Reverses Western narratives of sexual liberation, revealing how in the state-socialist East progressive measures came early, often advanced by expertise
    • Reinterprets the histories of the Cold War, showing that it was not simply a case of the state oppressing society, but that the experts influenced state policies that in turn shaped people's lives
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'An absolutely gorgeous book which transforms our understanding of the alternate modernity that was the Eastern bloc. Flush with stunning primary source material and dazzlingly original analysis, it challenges us to reconsider assumptions about 'psy-entific' expertise in conditions of authoritarianism - but even more to recognize ordinary citizens' extraordinary creativity and agency in shaping their intimate lives.' Dagmar Herzog, author of Cold War Freud: Psychoanalysis in an Age of Catastrophes

    'Lišková is the first to write the history of Czechoslovakia's sexual revolution. This enlightening, ambitious and original book challenges many of our preconceived notions about life under state socialism.' Melissa Feinberg, author of Curtain of Lies: The Battle over Truth in Stalinist Eastern Europe

    'Ambitious in its scale and prodigiously researched, this book will be a must for anyone who wants to know more about histories of gender and sexual freedom in twentieth-century Europe.' Dan Healey, author of Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent

    'Lišková challenges some of the most basic assumptions about the social organization of sexuality by showing that 'sexual liberation' in Czechoslovakia came from above, through the discourses of experts and the practices of the state. Her account demolishes the convenient imagery of prudish communist officials attempting to surround sexuality with walls of silence and hypocrisy. Similarly, she does away with the myth that authentic liberation and agency can only come from below. This is a thought provoking book that should be read profitably by all those interested in the relations between expertise, the state and sexual practices.' Gil Eyal, author of Making Capitalism Without Capitalists: The New Ruling Elites in Eastern Europe

    'In a remarkable challenge to the familiar linear narrative of sexual emancipation, Lišková shows how an early egalitarian ethos celebrating the parity of men and women as the path to satisfaction reverted to a traditional patriarchal ideal of male superiority after the failed uprising of the Prague Spring. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in non-totalitarian histories of the Eastern Bloc.' Kristen R. Ghodsee, author of Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108424691
    • length: 290 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.61kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Sweeping changes in sexuality across East Central Europe
    2. The public family: collectivized equality in the long 1950s
    3. The female orgasm: from treating infertility to managing pleasure
    4. The privatized family: atomized hierarchy during Normalization
    5. Male deviance: now you see them, now you don't
    Primary sources

  • Author

    Kateřina Lišková, Masarykova Univerzita v Brně, Czech Republic
    Kateřina Lišková teaches gender studies and sociology at Masaryk University, Czech Republic, and works as a Fellow at Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. In the past, she was affiliated with Columbia University and the New School for Social Research.

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