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Bodies, Sexuality and the “Modernization” of the British Working Classes, 1920s to 1960s

  • Stephen Brooke (a1)


A neglected aspect of the perceived “embourgeoisement” of the British working-classes in the 1950s was the representation of a blurring of class difference around questions of sexuality. In different ways, female bodies and sexuality in the postwar period became a means of talking about changing class identity and the modernization of society. In the 1920s and 1930s, the working-class body and working-class sexuality served as counterpoints to largely middle-class ideas of modern femininity and sexuality. Working-class women's inability to control their reproduction was portrayed as one cause of the deprivation experienced by the working classes. In the fifties, by contrast, working-class bodies and sexuality had become signifiers of the modernization of British class society. Working-class women were perceived as being able to control the size of their families. Such control was, with full employment and better housing, a mark of a modern, affluent working class. At the same time, working-class marriage was represented as increasingly incorporating notions of companionability and sexual pleasure previously only seen in middle-class life. “Embourgeoisement” in postwar Britain was thus represented as having a sexual aspect.


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Bodies, Sexuality and the “Modernization” of the British Working Classes, 1920s to 1960s

  • Stephen Brooke (a1)


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