Publication details

The emancipation of masturbation in twentieth-century Hungary



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Historical Journal
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords sexuality; expertise; socialism; Hungary
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Description In this article, I discuss the emancipation of masturbation in twentieth-century Hungary, focusing on the socialist, Kádár era (late 1950s to late 1980s), which I claim was the time when the discourses concerning masturbation underwent profound transformation. I use Thomas Laqueur's periodization of discourses on masturbation in the West and make the case that in Hungary, due to its twentieth-century political and intellectual history, which affected both the institutionalization of sexology and discourses on sexuality, there is a markedly different chronology. In Hungary, interwar socialists were the first to suggest a new approach toward masturbation but these ideas remained marginal during the Horthy regime and in the ‘Stalinist’ 1950s. In the early years of the Kádár regime, debates about sexual morality reformulated what should be understood under socialist sexual morality. The concept of socialist humanism, especially Imre Hirschler's work, linked early 1960s sex education with the interwar socialist discourse on sex and paved the way to the emancipation of masturbation and the establishment of a post-Stalinist, socialist sexual ethics. In the 1970s and 1980s, iconic sexologists like Vilmos Szilágyi and Béla Buda moved away from socialist humanism and continued Hirschler's work, but mirroring the perspectives of contemporary Western science.
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