Sex and the Married Girl: Heterosexual Marriage and the Body in Postwar Canada
Published: November 2022© 2022
240 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 0.75 in, 4 b&w illustrations
Sex – who was having it, who shouldn't have it, and who was supposed to be having it but wasn't – was a major concern to social authorities in the immediate postwar era. Though they are often remembered with nostalgia as a sexually simpler time, the 1950s and early 1960s were incredibly sexually productive years.
Sex and the Married Girl examines how two interrelated and dominant groups in Canada – medical professionals and church leaders – used married heterosexual female sexuality as a lever to rebuild the Canadian family and the state itself. Using embodied historical methodologies, the book examines not only discourses around sex but also how those discourses could influence the actual experience of sex for married women. Heather Stanley draws upon extensive oral life histories of women who lived, married, and had sex during this liminal social period to demonstrate that this was a time of simultaneous sexual and gender quiescence and change.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. Breaking Free from the “Nostalgia Trap”: History and the Paradox of Female Sexuality in the Postwar World
2. Embodying Family Values: The Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Creation of the “Mother Body”
3. Sex, Marriage, and the “One Flesh” Body: Married Sexuality in the Anglican, United, and Roman Catholic Denominations
4. Bringing Down Goliath: Oral Histories and the Engagement of Individual Bodies with the Ideal
5. Conclusion: Making Good (Sex)
Appendix: Interview Data
"In this clear and compelling book, Heather Stanley strips away the stereotype of the 1950s housewife to reveal the medical and religious discourses that shaped and reshaped postwar white, married, middle-class women’s bodies. Covering a range of subjects from psychoanalysis and birth control to religious marriage manuals and motherhood, Stanley contributes significantly to our understanding of post–World War II heterosexual marriage and the female body."Jane Nicholas, Associate Professor of History and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies, University of Waterloo
"If you believe in the sentimentalized myths and idealizations of 1950s wives and mothers, be forewarned: this book challenges, dissects, and explodes these stereotypes. This book is an outstanding contribution to Canadian gender and sexuality scholarship, with an original and welcome focus on Western Canada and on rural women."Sarah Carter, Professor of History, University of Alberta