Kateřina Lišková on the history of sexology in Communist Czechoslovakia

History of the Human Sciences have recently published an article by Kateřina Lišková of Masaryk University in Brno:


‘”Now you see them, now you don’t”. Sexual deviants and sexological expertise in Communist Czechoslovakia’

Despite its historical focus on aberrant behavior, sexology barely dealt with sexual deviants in 1950s Czechoslovakia. Rather, sexologists treated only isolated instances of deviance. The rare cases that went to court appeared mostly because they hindered work or harmed the national economy. Two decades later, however, the situation was markedly different. Hundreds of men were labeled as sexual delinquents and sentenced for treatment in special sexological wards at psychiatric hospitals. They endangered society, so it was claimed, by being unwilling or unable to conform to the family norm. The mode of subjection shifted from work to family. I analyse this change by using the tools of Gil Eyal’s sociology of expertise (2013), which focuses on shifts in institutional matrices that bring forth new groups of agents creating new expert networks. I argue that sexology became profoundly institutionalized in the early 1970s, which brought the discipline closer to psychiatry and forensic science. New inpatient facilities were opened that could admit sentenced sexual deviants. Also, demographic changes accelerated in the 1960s, especially skyrocketing divorce rates and plummeting birth rates, which made it imperative for the government to focus on cementing the family. After the failed attempts of the Prague Spring in 1968, the new pro-Soviet government of communist Czechoslovakia did just that. During the time dubbed as ‘normalization’ by the new elites, anyone who strayed from the family norm was suspected of deviance.


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