Constructing Sexuality and Gender in Czechoslovak Sexological Discourses during Communism (1948-1989)

 

Sexology enjoyed a special status under communism compared to other disciplines studying people and their relationships. While it was not banned by the Party and some branches even flourished, the object of its study provided for certain marginalization. The proposed research focuses on two sets of questions: the first exploring the institutionalization and practical impact of Czechoslovak sexology in the communist period (1948-89) and its influence on shaping gendered understandings of individuals and interpersonal relations, the second analyzing the broader political, academic and intellectual environment (i.e. criminology, medicine, pedagogy) Czechoslovak sexology was embedded in.

The socio-historical analyses of sexology have predominantly focused on the discipline’s impact in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Less is known about the development of sexology during the 20th century and next to nothing about its workings and influence in communist societies. This project attempts to fill this gap and will be guided by the following questions:

  • Was there any specificity of sexology under communism, compared to the Western world? And if so, what was its nature?
  • How was Czechoslovak sexology influenced by Western sexological schools, and how did it manifest in Czechoslovak sexological texts and practices?
  • What kinds of sexual practices and gender identities did Czechoslovak sexology deem normal and what forms were diagnosed as pathological?
  • How Czechoslovak sexology affected other academic disciplines and how was it affected by them?
  • What was the role of broader political environment (i.e. communist party documents and sex-educational policies and interventions)?

These issues have remained unexplored, to the detriment of understanding the specificities of discursive constructions of gender and sexuality in the Eastern European context. This research, conducted on a case study of a particular country, will provide insight into how the boundaries between science and politics were drawn and analyze the divergent experiences within them in order to illuminate the overlooked intersection of scientific discourse, communism, and gender.


This research was supported by a Marie Curie International Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme.