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Title: The two world wars and the remaking of Australian sexuality
Contributor(s): Bongiorno, Frank Robert (author)
Publication Date: 2010
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Abstract: War has conventionally been understood as disruptive of the sexual order. Both men and women, it is suggested, are subjected to abnormal conditions - of stress and danger, but also freedom from the constraints usually imposed by family, church and community. War reverses the usual order of things by forcing the young, more than the middle-aged or elderly, to face the prospect of oblivion; the possibility that the body which yesterday was enmeshed in the giving and receiving of pleasure will today or tomorrow be broken or obliterated. The conventional wisdom might be that war increases sexual freedom but the Australian experience of two global conflicts points to more complicated effects. This chapter explores some themes in the history of sexuality in the context of the two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) and moves beyond the notion that war produces either greater freedom or constraint by revealing the sexual terrain as uneven and contested. Gayle Rubin's suggestion of 'a hierarchical system of sexual value' is potentially helpful in this context. Rubin argues that in the range of sexual orientations and behaviours some are rated more highly than others. While in the modern West this hierarchy has a certain stability - sexual intercourse between the married and reproductive, for instance, tends to be most acceptable - it is also subject to a degree of modification, especially in periods of crisis: Rubin's hierarchy can be seen as contested by a range of social groups, practices and discourses, and inflected by identities such as class and race. Global war might be seen as a juncture in which these arrangements are especially subject to local pressure, contention and renegotiation.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Anzac Legacies: Australians and the Aftermath of War, p. 84-106
Publisher: Australian Scholarly Publishing
Place of Publication: Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 9781921509780
Field of Research (FOR): 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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