Publication details

Aging women as sexual beings. Expertise between the 1950s and 1970s in state socialist Czechoslovakia



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source History of the Family
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords Aging; women; sexuality; expertise; state socialism; Czechoslovakia; transnational knowledge networks
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Description The paper examines the changes during state socialism in Czechoslovakia in the understanding of the post-reproductive sexuality of women, focusing on the network of medical experts and shifts in expertise, which gave rise to a ‘new kind of person’: sexually active climacteric women. Analyzing the medical press, we show how Czechoslovak experts moved from an exclusive focus on women of reproductive age toward seeing climacteric women first in connection with their working capacities and gynecological health, and over time more as sexual beings. We trace the changes in the broader societal discourse and the shifts in (primarily gynecological) expertise that facilitated a gradual rejection of the stereotypical image of ‘fading’ women and made the emergence of sexually active climacteric women possible. Moreover, we highlight the role of transnational knowledge circulation. We demonstrate how expertise was transformed after Czechoslovak experts became acquainted with the work of the US sexologists Masters and Johnson in the second half of the 1960s. As the systems of knowledge realigned, expertise shifted toward emphasizing the existence and importance of sexual pleasure for (post-)climacteric women. Pointing to similar developments in neighboring countries, we highlight the importance of comparative approaches to state-socialist sexualities.
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