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Biology, Morality and Gender: East and West German Sex Education in Films, 1945-70

WINKLER, ANITA (2014) Biology, Morality and Gender: East and West German Sex Education in Films, 1945-70. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores East and West German sex education films between 1945 and 1970. Sex education films are rich historical sources that allow insights into cultural, social and political understandings of sexualised bodies, sexual moral norms and gender roles of the time. Sex education films mediate sexual knowledge as well as social norms. They sought to transform the sexual realities and behaviour of young people and thus reflect contemporary notions of what was perceived as sexual problems. Moreover, sex education films bring to the surface ideological projections of what was imagined to be an ideal society at that time. Sex education films are therefore firmly linked to contemporary sexual politics.
This study explores the biopolitical agendas of such films. A biopolitical approach takes into account concurrent and reverse dynamics that unfold in sex education films, revealing the many normative layers with which these films responded to social issues. This approach allows analysing questions related to the effects of the self-governance of the body the individual has to take responsibility for. From this perspective, my thesis will investigate the similarities and differences between East and West German sexual politics. This comparative approach introduces a new perspective to the historiography of German sexuality after 1945. By strengthening the comparative aspect and focusing on the biopolitical dimensions of sex education films, my thesis challenges current understandings of a so-called sexual liberalisation in West Germany. Instead, my study claims that in both German states sex education films were part of biopolitical strategies that increasingly relied on the self-management of the body as core value for the personal well-being. Thus, my thesis offers a different and more nuanced understanding of the apparent changes in sexual morality and behaviour in both German states that does not rely on a value loaded concept of ‘liberalisation’ to explain such changes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:German history, sex education films, sexual morality, biopolitics, sex education films, East and West Germany, History of post-1945
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Medicine and Health, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Nov 2014 15:36

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