You Weren't Taught That with the Welding: Lessons in Sexuality in the Second World War

TitleYou Weren't Taught That with the Welding: Lessons in Sexuality in the Second World War
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsSummerfield, Penny, and Nicole Crockett
JournalWomen's History Review
Pagination435 - 454
Date Published09/1993

War, especially the Second World War, has been seen as a time when relations between the sexes were problematic. This was attributed to the social disturbance caused by war through mobilisation for war work and the destructive effects of bombing. Connections between wartime disturbance and sex were made through rumour and innuendo, mostly about women's loose morals, and also in official enquiries. Some male historians have read such evidence as indicating the sexual liberation of women in wartime. Feminist historians in contrast have reacted to it in three more critical ways. In this paper [the authors] explore what women themselves felt was happening, using oral history evidence from 40 women. [The authors] argue that this subjective evidence challenges some of the constructions of sexuality in wartime discussed in the first part of the paper, most obviously the official discourse of women as immoral and simplistic views of the war as sexually liberating for women, but also perspectives which over-emphasise control and regulation. The accounts collected emphasise a wide variety of responses which include conformity to traditional norms of sexual behaviour and femininity, as well as rejection of such norms and a refusal to be subordinated.

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