TALKING SEX Deciphering Dialogues of American Female Sexuality in the Mosher Survey, 1892-1920


Tunc T. E.

JOURNAL OF WOMENS HISTORY, vol.22, no.1, pp.130-153, 2010 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 22 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Doi Number: 10.1353/jowh.0.0138
  • Journal Name: JOURNAL OF WOMENS HISTORY
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.130-153

Abstract

The Mosher Survey (1892-1920) is an important historical source because it is the earliest known qualitative study of American women's sexuality. It not only provides us with a rare glimpse into the lives of turn-of-the-twentieth-century middle-class women, but also serves as an intimate window into an embedded series of "relationships"-between the physician (Mosher) and her subjects, between the respondents and American society, and between women of the same socioeconomic class. The survey also embodies the shift from the largely informal, private, sexual discourse that occurred among lay women during the nineteenth century, to the professional, medicalized sexual discourse of the twentieth century, in which physicians and sex researchers played key roles. It is a remarkable example of the "professionalization" of "women talking sex"-that is, the medicalization of dialogues which women had long been having with their mothers, sisters, female friends, and daughters.