Between health and pleasure. Sexology and the quest for the female orgasm in communist Czechoslovakia

Dr. Kateřina Lišková: Between health and pleasure. Sexology and the quest for the female orgasm in communist Czechoslovakia

Did women have better sex under socialism? Many conditions were fulfilled, including the expert interest and advice given to people. In communist Czechoslovakia, the expert endeavor started in the early 1950s with a vital interest that all states share: biological reproduction. The push for fertility came with an unexpected twist – the quest for the female orgasm. Sexologists deployed a complex survey and concluded that anorgasmic wives did not love their husbands, and that half of them even felt hostile towards them. The end of the long 1950s saw some sexologists suggesting that men needed to participate more with housework and child rearing, and only this would unlock the orgasm for women. They argued that only a new type of family, with partners who considered each other as equals, and who were committed and loved each other, could cure sexual ailments, particularly those of women.

That changed in the 1970s when therapy and training in sexual technique took center stage. A special state-of-the-art facility opened in 1973 at a curious place: a psychiatric hospital. Sex therapy highlighting technique soon became available to dissatisfied couples in other out-patient clinics across the country.

In this session, we will introduce the developments in gender and sexuality in Czechoslovakia in the context of neighboring state-socialist countries, discuss the difference that capitalism and socialism offer women, and what consequences different types of regime bring for female pleasure. We will focus on the importance of expertise, such as sexology.

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