THE DOUBLE BED: SEX, HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE AND THE BODY IN POSTWAR ENGLISH CANADA, 1946-1966
Sex and sexuality are embodied experiences that are highly constructed by society. Sexual acts are subject to varied historical meanings, both dominant and subversive, which change over time and space. This dissertation explores how embodied heterosexual married sexual experiences were constructed for, and by, women in the immediate postwar era (1946-1966) and how that sexuality interacted with related social paradigms such as gender roles, motherhood, and femininity within English Canada. Using the body as a lens, this dissertation explores how three main sites of authoritative discourse attempted to police postwar sexual bodies through the creation of ideal, or Leviathan, bodies and associated systems of encoded knowledges and mores called “body politics.” The first case study examines the medicalized body, using the Canadian Medical Association Journal demonstrating how mothers were constructed as the keystones of their families; it reveals the intimate ties between familial gender and sexual role deviance and reproductive illnesses in women’s bodies. The second case study examines how the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic Churches reframed sex as sacramental for English Canadian married couples encouraging them to engage in sexual coitus to both strengthen their marriages and renew their spiritual connection to God. The third case study uses I Love Lucy to interrogate how mass media created and reflected postwar sexual and gender norms while simultaneously subverting them, generating a carnivalesque situation of tightly contained deviance. This dissertation then moves on to examine how the discourses of the previous three chapters affected actual women as demonstrated by a series of eighteen interviews with women who married between 1939 and 1966. The oral histories establish that actual corporeal bodies were at best distorted, or “fun house,” mirrors that only ever reflected imperfect copies of the ideal bodies they were supposed to emulate. In addition to making significant contributions to the historiographies of each of the case studies contained therein, this dissertation adds new knowledges about the ways that “normal” bodies work throughout history, creating simultaneous continuity and change, as well as how sexuality and gender norms are intimately connected within the realm of the body.
sexuality, history, gender, history of medicine, history of religion, media history, oral history, femininity, discourse, body, baby boom, Canada, sex, marriage
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)