|HS2017 Telling Our Stories:|
Gender, Ethnicity and Class in Twentieth Century
Week 4 Male and female sexuality in the early twentieth century
Photograph of Ethel Smyth 1858-1944, English Composer and suffragist.
1. Tasks for StudentsGo back to the definitions of gender you constructed in Week 1. Add definitions of 'sex' and 'sexuality' and then try to answer the next 3 questions.
2. What do we know about gender relations in Britain after WW1?
3. What do we know about sexual behaviour and attitudes in Britain after WW1?
4. What do we know about the lives of lesbians and gay men in the inter-war period?The next 4 sections attempt to answer this question.
A. Evidence from the sexologists'Nature, it might appear, in mixing the elements which go to compose each individual, does not always keep her two groups of ingredients - which represent the two sexes - properly apart, but often throws them crosswise in a somewhat baffling manner, now this way and now that; yet wisely, we must think - for if a severe distinction of elements were always maintained the two sexes would soon drift into far latitudes and absolutely cease to understand each other.'
Edward Carpenter (1896) The Intermediate Sex
'Sexual inversion, therefore, remains a congenital abnormality, to be classed with other congenital abnormalities which have psychic concomitants.'
B. Evidence from the Law
Section II of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885
"Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency shall be guilty of misdemeanour, and being convicted shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour."
Sheila Jeffreys (1985) The Spinster and her Enemies
C. Evidence from Court Cases
Radclyffe Hall (1928) The Well of Loneliness (Chapter 27)
"When the book was first published, it elicited many different responses, and it still does. Many lesbians in the 1930's, '40s, and '50s encountered their first exposure to other lesbians in the book's pages, and found the book liberating, but some gays and lesbians were offended by the book's apologetic tone and pleas for pity.
D. Evidence from historians and social theoristsFeminists and the exploration of women’s friendships in the past – ‘Like other strands in feminist history, it involves partly the recovery of this ‘lost’ aspect of women’s history and partly the reconceptualization of such friendships.’ (Stanley, 1992, p. 161)
'However, understanding these relationships in the terms they were understood by their protagonists is an impossibility: we can never understand the past as it was understood by those who lived it'. (Stanley, 1992, p. 169)
‘Whether or not these women expressed themselves genitally there is no doubt that physical excitement and eroticism played an important part in their love’. (Jeffreys, 1985)
Jeffrey Weeks in Sex, Politics and Society (1981, p. 200) argues that the most significant developments of the inter-war years in Britain were
5. What can we find out about cross-dressing?
A. From photographs, memoirs, literature
B. From newspaper stories & court cases
6. What is the significance of cross-dressing?
7. Why is studying the history of sexuality important?'Lesbian activists in the 1970s and 1980s felt it was vital to trace a heritage of lesbian sexuality in the past, to feel part of a long, powerful and transgressive lesbian/feminist/queer history. It was also important to try to understand mechanisms of oppression - why and how had lesbians been an invisible, stigmatised or persecuted minority, and how this had been challenged? (Oram & Turnbull, 2001, p. 4)
'..sex is relational, is shaped by social interaction, and can only be understood in its historical context, in terms of the cultural meanings assigned to it, and in terms of the internal, subjective meanings of the sexed individuals that emerge.' (Weeks, 1981, p. 12)
Useful WebsitesHall-Carpenter Archives http://hallcarpenter.tripod.com/
Brighton OurStory Project – lesbian history of Brighton http://www.brightonourstory.co.uk
Gingerbeer: London Lesbian Guide http://www.gingerbeer.co.uk/
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans History Month 2007 http://www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/resources/books.htm
ReadingBell, B. and Brighton Ourstory Project (1999) Just Take Your Frock Off: A Lesbian Life, Ourstory Books.
Bland, L. and Doan, L. (1998) Sexology in Culture, London: Polity Press.
Bland, L. and Doan, L. (1998) Sexology Uncensored: Documents of Sexual Science, London: Polity Press.
Cant, B. and Hemmings, S. (eds) (1988) Radical Records: Thirty Years of Lesbian and Gay History, 1957-1987, London: Routledge.
Cline, S. (1997) Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John, Glasgow: John Murray.
Dunne, Gillian A. (1996) Lesbian lifestyles: women's work and the politics of sexuality, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Duberman, M., Vicinus, M. and Chauncey, G. (1989) Hidden From History, New York: New American Library.
Faderman, L. (1981) Surpassing the Love of Men, New York: William Morrow.
Freedman, E. (1997) ‘”The Burning of Letters Continues”: Elusive Identities and the Historical Construction of Sexuality’, Journal of Women’s History, 9(4).
Garber, M. (1992) Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, London: Penguin.
Giles, J. (1992) ‘Playing Hard to Get: Working Class Women, Sexuality and Respectability in Britain 1918-1940’, Women’s History Review 1(2).
Grayzel, S. (1999) ‘The Enemy Within: The Problem of British Women’s Sexuality During the First World War’ in Dombrowski, N. Women and War in the Twentieth Century, Garland.
Hall, L. (1991) Hidden Anxieties: Male Sexuality 1900-1950, Cambridge: Polity.
Hall, L. (1999) Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1800, Macmillan Press.
Hall Carpenter Archives (1989) Inventing Ourselves: Lesbian Life Stories, London: Routledge.
Hall Carpenter Archives (1989) Walking after Midnight: Gay Men’s Life Stories, London: Routledge.
Hall Carpenter Archives. Lesbian Oral History Group (1989) Inventing Ourselves: Lesbian Life Stories, London: Routledge.
Hallett, N. (1999) Lesbian Lives: Identity and Auto/Biography in the Twentieth Century, London: Pluto Press.
Hamer, E. (1996) Britannia's glory: a history of twentieth-century lesbians, London: Cassell.
Harding, J (1998) Sex Acts: Practices of Femininity and Masculinity, London: Sage.
Humphreys, S. (1988) The Secret Life of Sex: Forbidden Fruit: The British Experience, London: BBC.
Jackson, M. (1994) The Real Facts of Life: Feminism and the Politics of Sexuality, London, Taylor & Francis.
Jeffreys, S (1985) The Spinster and her Enemies, Hammersmith: Harper Collins.
Lesbian History Group (1989) Not a passing phase: reclaiming lesbians in history 1840-1985, London: Women's Press.
MacLaren, A. (2000) Twentieth Century Sexuality: A History, London: Basil Blackwell.
Mangan, J. and Walvin, J. (eds) (1987) Manliness and Morality: Middle-class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800-1940, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Mason-John, V. and Khambatta, A. (1993) Lesbians Talk Making Black Waves, London: Scarlet Press.
Newton, E. (1984) ‘The mythic mannish lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 9(4): 557-75. Reprinted in Duberman, M., Vicinus, M. and Chauncey, G. (1989) Hidden From History, New York: New American Library, 281-93.
Oram, A. and Turnbull, A. (2001) The Lesbian History Sourcebook: love and sex between women in Britain from 1780-1970, London: Routledge.
Phillips, K. and Reay, B. (2002) Sexualities in History: a reader, London and New York: Routledge.
Porter, K. and Weeks, J. (eds) (1991) Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men 1885-1967, London: Routledge.
Smith-Rosenberg, C. (1989) ‘Discourses of sexuality and subjectivity: the New Woman, 1870-1936’, in Duberman, M., Vicinus, M. and Chauncey, G. (1989) Hidden From History, New York: New American Library, 264-80.
Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll (1975) ‘The female world of love and ritual: relations between women in nineteenth-century America’, Signs, 1: 1-29.
Stanley, L. (1992) ‘Epistemological issues in researching lesbian history: the case of romantic friendship’, in Hinds, H. Phoenix, A. and Stacey, J. (eds) Working Out: New Directions for Women's Studies, Falmer Press.
Stanley, L. (1992) 'Romantic Friendship? ‘Some Issues in Researching Lesbian History and Biography', Women's History Review 1(2).
Souhami, D. (1998) The Trials of Radclyffe Hall, London: Weinderfeld.
Traub, V. (1999) ‘The Rewards of Lesbian History’, Feminist Studies 25(2).
Weeks, J. (1989) Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1900, 2nd ed., London: Longman Weeks, J. (2000) Making Sexual History, London: Polity Press.
Page created by Penny Welch May 2003/updated February 2007/reading list from 2008-9 added August 2012