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Popular medical books and defloration: Shaping femininity and masculinity in the nineteenth century

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Abstract

Drawing on the study of several popular medical books dealing with sexuality, such as marriage advice manuals, published in France between the 1850s and the 1910s, this chapter points that defloration is described as a crucial event in the making of both femininity and masculinity. First, it reframes these manuals in their scientifical and social context and shows that their content is deeply infused with social and moral considerations of their time. It then analyses the way defloration is described as a turning point in a woman's life and as the realization of her true femininity. It argues that this femininity achieved through the first sexual encounter is quite ambiguous: it is indeed described as a transfer of virile characteristics from man to woman, which results in a complex femininity. The last part questions how these manuals, by imposing specific behaviors to husbands during the wedding night, produce new norms of masculinities.
Fondé sur l’étude d’un corpus de manuels conjugaux parus en France entre les années 1850 et 1910, ce chapitre étudie la manière dont la défloration y est figurée comme un événement important dans l’élaboration des identités de genre. Il s’attache d’abord à replacer ces écrits dans leur contexte scientifique et social, avant de s’intéresser à la manière dont la défloration est décrite comme essentielle dans la construction de la féminité – une féminité ambiguë, qui se pare d’aspects masculins. Il interroge enfin la manière dont les prescriptions faites aux époux à l’égard de la nuit de noces façonnent de nouvelles normes de masculinité.
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Dates and versions

hal-03888586 , version 1 (07-12-2022)

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Pauline Mortas. Popular medical books and defloration: Shaping femininity and masculinity in the nineteenth century. Alain Giami; Sharman Levinson. Histories of Sexology: between science and politics, Springer International Publishing, pp.169-183, 2021, Global Queer Politics, 978-3-030-65812-0. ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-65813-7_10⟩. ⟨hal-03888586⟩
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