Journal Article

Sexual Morality in 1960s West Germany

Dagmar Herzog

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 23, issue 3, pages 371-384
Published in print July 2005 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online July 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355405gh346oa
Sexual Morality in 1960s West Germany

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This essay investigates the relationship between the sexual revolution of the 1960s in West Germany and the short and long-term legacies of the Third Reich. It offers a challenge to conventional perspectives on the sexual politics of Nazism and thus also on the complicated combination of continuities and ruptures in sexual politics that marked the transition from the end of World War II into the more conservative sexual culture of the 1950s. The essay then turns to the multiple factors that triggered the sexual liberalization of the 1960s. Rejecting as too simplistic the long-held assumption that rising economic standards explain the liberalizing trends, the essay also charts how, in ways distinctively West German, the sexual liberalization that occurred in the course of the 1960s was morally legitimated. The essay examines the changing interpretations of the Third Reich that emerged in the course of the 1960s and how these were deployed in battles over sexuality. Although recognizing the dramatic transformations in young people's sexual practices and views in particular, the essay stresses as well that sexual liberalization was not only the result of New Left student activism but rather required engaged activism also from older liberals; the sexual revolution was carried by a very broad social base, involving members of all generations and a broad spectrum of political persuasions. Special attention is also paid to the important role of liberalizing processes within the Christian churches in helping to justify the loosening of popular mores.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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