The Invention of the Unsexual: Situating Frigidity in the History of Sexuality and in Feminist Thought

Publication Type:
Journal Article
French History and Civilization, 2009, 2 (1), pp. 181 - 192
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Studying the construction of the idea of feminine sexual frigidity in France across the turn and beginning of the twentieth century is a particularly useful pivot for theoretical consideration of what it means to write the history of sexuality more broadly. In this paper I hope to show how approaches to the sexual past must be reconsidered according to historicist ideals of context, specificity and critiques of presentism. After examining universalist and presentist assumptions about the politics of frigidity, I examine, via a series of thematic headings, how texts of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France reveal their own politics of gender, power and medicine when they talk about lacking feminine sexual desire.
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