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Sexual Knowledge

Sexual Knowledge: Feeling, Fact, and Social Reform in Vienna, 1900-1934

Britta McEwen
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Sexual Knowledge
    Book Description:

    Vienna's unique intellectual, political, and religious traditions had a powerful impact on the transformation of sexual knowledge in the early twentieth century. Whereas turn-of-the-century sexology, as practiced in Vienna as a medical science, sought to classify and heal individuals, during the interwar years, sexual knowledge was employed by a variety of actors to heal the social body: the truncated, diseased, and impoverished population of the newly created Republic of Austria. Based on rich source material, this book charts cultural changes that are hallmarks of the modern era, such as the rise of the companionate marriage, the role of expert advice in intimate matters, and the body as a source of pleasure and anxiety. These changes are evidence of a dramatic shift in attitudes from a form of scientific inquiry largely practiced by medical specialists to a social reform movement led by and intended for a wider audience that included workers, women, and children.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-338-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction Vienna as a Laboratory for Sexual Knowledge
    (pp. 1-25)

    For much of the year 1900, eighteen-year-old Ida Bauer spent an hour a day with her doctor, Sigmund Freud. Freud had been hired by Bauer’s father, whom he had already treated for syphilis several years earlier. Freud’s task in treating Ida Bauer, however, was to discover the source of the hysteria she suffered from, which left her with a dry cough, a limp, and occasional vaginal discharge.She was also entertaining suicidal thoughts. Bauer explained to Freud her relationships with Herr and Frau K., family friends who, Bauer maintained, had acted inappropriately towards her. In the course of their conversations, Bauer...

  5. Chapter 1 City Hall and Sexual Hygiene in Red Vienna
    (pp. 26-53)

    In late November 1920, one of the few pre-war chaired Jewish professors of Vienna’s University Medical School was appointed to head the municipality’s newly created public health and welfare office. Dr. Julius Tandler was a professor of anatomy, a founding member of the Austrian Society for Population Politics, and the creator of a scientific journal dedicated to research into improving the human constitution. He had served on various health committees in the fledgling Austrian Republic before ascending to his new title as amtsführenden Stadtratfür Wohlfahrtswesen und soziale Verwaltung der Stadt Wien. Tandler’s unofficial title was no less impressive: within...

  6. Chapter 2 Sexual Education Debates in Late Imperial and Republican Vienna
    (pp. 54-90)

    Sexual education was a central tenet of the international sex reform movement. The question of sexual knowledge for children was in many ways both an impetus and a trial for Viennese sex reformers. It struck deep into the family realm, raising questions about how children learn, what values should be transmitted to them, and when fairy tales and scientific truths were appropriate. In interwar Vienna, socialist and reform-minded educators worked to replace religious authority on sexual matters with a more scientific and publicly distributed discourse of sexual knowledge. Catholic pedagogues, in turn, responded to this trend by developing new approaches...

  7. Chapter 3 Popular Sexual Knowledge for and about Women
    (pp. 91-117)

    Fin-de-sièclesexology dedicated much of its scientific investigation and social reform agitation to the homosexual male. Leading sexologists Magnus Hirschfeld, Havelock Ellis, and Richard Krafft-Ebing produced studies that naturalized homosexuality within a wide range of sexual preference and behavior, and drew upon their work to argue for the repeal of anti-homosexual legislation across Europe.¹ In the wake of World War I, the burgeoning sexology discourses of Central Europe were transformed and modified to address the problems of depopulation, venereal disease, and urban misery. This chapter follows the explosion in the public sphere of sexual information intended for adults. In particular,...

  8. Chapter 4 Clinic Culture
    (pp. 118-143)

    You are about to get married, thus it is of the greatest importance that you heed the following:

    The health of the marriage partner is, for the happiness of the marriage, more important than money and property.

    Disease in a marriage partner damages their own work-strength, lessens the ability to work, obliges the other partner to increased work, reduces the joy of living, and brings grief and worry into the house.

    Diseases, even when they are not hereditary, very often damage the offspring, so that they either are born already weak or sick, or later easily fall ill. A wealth...

  9. Chapter 5 Emotional Responses: Hugo Bettauer’s Vienna Weeklies
    (pp. 144-174)

    The range of sexual knowledge described thus far in this book has been bound by science. Sexual knowledge production in Vienna began with medicine and sexology in the nineteenth century. In turn, the social scientific traditions of sociology, psychology, and economics prompted state and medical authorities to expand popular sexual knowledge and shaped the ways that this knowledge was expressed. Popular advice manuals for children and adults mirrored these changes. The present chapter, however, looks at the ways erotica sold sexual knowledge to the reading (or looking) public of Vienna. It focuses on the weekly newspapers published by Hugo Bettauer,...

  10. Chapter 6 Local Reform on an International Stage: The World League for Sexual Reform in Vienna
    (pp. 175-195)

    On Wednesday, 17 September 1930, the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR) opened in the ViennaKonzerthaus.The daily newspaper of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party, theArbeiter-Zeitung,described the scene:

    Sexual reformers from all civilized countries filled the middle concert hall, along with many famous Viennese doctors, jurists, and educators. In front of theKonzerthausa noticeably large number of policemen were present, and inside the building were countless plain-clothed guards. The police were said to fear disturbances from supporters of “nationalist circles.” Apparently these fears were concerned with those elements of society for whom...

  11. Conclusion Sexual Knowledge between Science and Social Reform
    (pp. 196-198)

    The fall of Austrian Social Democracy ended in February of 1934. Already besieged in government, SDAP leadership was ousted from Vienna’s city hall in a violent coup led by what would become known as the Fatherland Front: an authoritarian regime aligned closely with the Roman Catholic Church. While the production of sexual knowledge in Vienna did not end in 1934, it certainly lost its innovative drive. Many of the personages in this book had already left the stage. Hugo Bettauer had been dead almost a decade; Wilhelm Reich had left for Berlin and then exile in Scandinavia; Johann and Betty...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-232)