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Sexual Politics and Feminist ScienceWomen Sexologists in Germany, 1900-1933$
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Kirsten Leng

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501709302

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501709302.001.0001

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As Natural as Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping

As Natural as Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping

Redefining the Female Sex Drive

(p.63) 2 As Natural as Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping
Sexual Politics and Feminist Science

Kirsten Leng

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores debates regarding the “true nature” of the female sex drive in the early twentieth century. It focuses on the ideas of Henriette Fürth, Grete Meisel-Hess, Ruth Bré, and Johanna Elberskirchen, who drew upon cutting-edge scientific knowledge to assert that women possessed an innate sex drive that was distinct from the maternal drive and constituted an authentic and independent source of sexual desire. With this new definition of the female sex drive, these authors positioned women as sexual agents, demanded the reform of institutions that governed heterosexuality—above all marriage—and challenged the sexual double standard, which required women (but not men) to remain celibate outside of marriage. This chapter also examines the disagreements these ideas engendered among male and female sexual theorists, and among women sexologists and feminists from the self-defined moderate wing of the German women’s movement.

Keywords:   Henriette Fürth, Grete Meisel-Hess, Ruth Bré, Johanna Elberskirchen, Heterosexuality, Sex drive, Sexual reform, Feminism

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