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TOPIC: sexuality


Holocaust Survivor Fertility And The Importance Of History's Most Intimate Questions

Perpetuating the silence around sex and body issues can lead to misinterpreting historical events, and prevent us from taking action to right wrongs.


Recently, a group of Auschwitz survivors was asked a basic question: How did the Holocaust affect your period?

Although many had previously been interviewed by the Shoah Foundation, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Montreal Holocaust Museum, nobody had ever conducted in-depth interviews with them about their menstrual cycles in the more than seven decades since they survived the concentration camp — that is, until researchers from the University of Ottawa and Oxford Brookes University sought to learn more about women’s infertility after the Holocaust.

While scholars have studied the medical experiments that Nazis conducted on some concentration camp prisoners, these victims were a relatively small subset of that population. Researchers had not examined whether treatments inhibiting fertility were routinely applied to the general population of female prisoners, as some researchers now suspect.

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Hysterical To Hypersexual: Bogus Female Diseases Have Always Held Women Down

Throughout history, women have been overdiagnosed with mainly psychiatric ailments and syndromes that have already been ruled out, from hysteria to nymphomania. This distorted portrait, which had its golden age in the 19th century, has been questioned in recent decades by the research community.

"Born weak and sensitive, the woman, faithful companion of man, deserves the most lively interest and presents a vast field for the meditations of philosophers and doctors." This is how the Treatise on the Diseases of Women begins, a text from 1844 that aims to be an update of everything known by medicine about women to date.

The "fair sex" or the "angel in the house" were names used by some scientists of the 19th century, who underpinned the notion of the "weaker sex" in the collective imagination to refer to women.

“The physical modifications that constitute the beauties of women are in inverse proportion to those that constitute those of men. The features of her face have fine and pleasant proportions, her feet are smaller and her hands are delicate, her arms, thighs and legs are thicker, the muscles of all her limbs are sweetly demarcated with undulating lines”, writes the doctor Baltasar de Viguera in Female physiology and pathology (1827).

For De Viguera, who recounted the sensitivity and delicacy in forms, senses and character of women, their qualities had to do with "the organs of the womb."

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Unzipped! The African Women Breaking Taboos Of Sexuality

In countries and communities where sexuality is often kept under wraps, more and more women are taking up their microphones, pens and keyboards to talk about intimate issues without filters.

When the subject of African women's sexuality gets media coverage it's almost always a bad thing, says Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, a Ghanaian writer based in London: "through the spectrum of disease, HIV or repeated pregnancies."

While universal access to sexual and reproductive health services remains a central issue in West Africa, Sekyiamah wants to share other narratives. To do this, she co-founded the blog: Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.

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India's Legal Age To Marry And Shackles Of The Patriarchy

As India debates raising the legal age of women to marry to match the age for men, one women writer asks what it means for her.


NEW DELHI — Growing up in an urban and (mostly) open-minded family, I often had a hard time comprehending the complexities involving women being married off as soon as they turned 18.

My grandmother had been married at the age of 17. My mother, at 21.

As I tried to contemplate the predicament of the women of my family for generations before me, I could feel myself gradually descending into madness — and brimming with questions.

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Eva Eusterhus

Why An Iconic Pharmacy Is Turning Into A Sex Toy Museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg thanks to its industrious owner. Now, her daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop.

The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner, who is sitting next to her at the table. Genger and Müllner are surrounded by heavy wooden drawers and antique glass vessels labelled with the Latin names of their contents, as is often found in old pharmacies.

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Penélope Canonico and Hernán Mármol

The Brave New World Of High-Tech Sex Toys

From long-distance pleasuring to hands-on stimulators, the 21st century adult toys market offers plenty of exciting options. Just don't get hacked.

BUENOS AIRES — The choice of sex toys seems boundless these days, and Christian Milosevic, for one, isn't surprised.

"Sexuality is part of our biological health," explains the owner of a sex shop on the corner of Malabia and Corrientes streets, in Buenos Aires. "The toys bring new possibilities, sensations and can even be therapeutic."

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María Florencia Pérez

Adolescent Love Evolves: From Yearning To Exploration

For many teenagers today, the rules and taboos of love have disappeared. They see it as territory for sexual — and bisexual — discoveries, not a quest for a partner.

BUENOS AIRES — Spontaneous, open and diverse: This is how today's teenagers could describe their sexual relations. Their grandparents' unending, chaste courtships seem implausible, while their parents' "boy-meets-girl" format is just an option. They reject gender stereotypes, defend the right to follow their desires and freely experiment with intimate relationships outside the heterosexual norm. Spontaneity prevails over forced commitments.

Fifteen-year-old Jean Paul Rimbaud uses inclusive language and is perfectly at ease with gender theory jargon. He has no qualms donning a skirt or wearing makeup, even if adults around him react in "aggressive" or "inappropriate" ways. This secondary-school pupil realizes there is an abyss between the adolescence that his parents lived almost four decades ago and his present experience, in which he can openly declare himself bisexual. It is "another world today. Their ideas were set in stone. They didn't question many issues that now are no longer taken for granted."

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Lisa Lane

What Same-Sex Marriage Referendum Failure Says About Taiwan

The referenda that rejected marriage equality in Taiwan last month was not only a huge blow to the country's LGBT community, but also a political setback to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Two years ago, It was the DPP that had originally taken to Parliament the proposed amendment of Taiwan's Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage.

No less important was the May 2017 decision by Taiwan's Constitutional court that ruled the ban on same-sex marriage was "in violation of both the people's freedom of marriage, as well as right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution." This ruling was accompanied with a two-year time frame for parliament to amend the existing law, or to create a distinct new law according same-sex couples equal rights.

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Madeleine Meteyer

In France, The Stigma Of Virginity In A Hypersexualized Society

A group of French 20-somethings share their different reasons for choosing chastity, and discuss the difficulties their choice entails.

PARIS — It doesn't come up in conversation, except maybe when we lose it and become sexually active. But on its own — as a state of being — "nobody talks about it," says Chloé, 24. It's like there's just no room for virginity in a society where everybody is encouraged to "jump on everything that moves," she adds.

In France, the average age for first sexual intercourse is 17.4 years old for men and 17.6 for women. Beyond 20, it's becoming extremely rare to have, among your friends, people who've not given in to the pleasures of the flesh. And yet, there are some for whom the moment never materialized, either by choice or by happenstance. They are discreet about it, though. They don't shout it from the rooftops. They're aware that they don't fit in the "mold."

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Anne Chemin

May 1968, Month One Of The Sexual Revolution?

France will be marking 50 years since the month-long student uprising that challenged the establishment on so many fronts. But some historians now question whether it was really the birth of sexual liberation.

PARIS — During the May 1968 student uprising in Paris, one of the movement's top leaders Daniel Cohn-Bendit raised the question of the "sexual problems of the youth" in a public confrontation with France's Minister of Sports. Still, the issue was seldom discussed at length during the monthlong confrontation. Only later, did it become association with the epochal events in the French capital 50 years ago.

"Climax without hindrance," "The more I make love, the more I want to start a revolution. The more revolutions I start, the more I want to make love ..." The graffiti adorning the walls of Paris in May 1968 have helped build a myth: That month marked the beginning of the sexual revolution.

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Eric Biétry-Rivierre

Art History Gets Complicated For The #MeToo Era

Sexually-charged images of women (and occasionally men) being seized and abducted abound in ancient and present-day artwork alike.

PARIS — There's Deianira who was abducted by a centaur. And Proserpina, Persephone, Europa and Philyra, who were also snatched away by some god often advantageously metamorphosed into a bull or a stallion. Representations of these kinds of "love abductions' are abundant in painting and sculpture, from Antiquity to the present day.

Why? And what should be made of these many images? Jérôme Delaplanche, director of the art history department at the French Academy in Rome, tries to answer those very questions in a recently published essay entitled Ravissement (meaning "rapture" or "rape" in English).

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Reshmi Chakraborty

Virginity Test, Why An Ugly Patriarchal Rite Won't Go Away

In India, a centuries-old custom comes up against basic demands for human rights.

MAHARASHTRA — For the past few months, the Kanjarbhat community in Maharashtra has been engaged in a battle that pits tradition against education, and fundamental rights against dogged customs.

The Kanjarbhats, a Denotified Tribe from Maharashtra, practice a custom called gun jiti, whereby a bride's virginity is tested by looking for blood stains on a white sheet after the wedding night. The sheet is checked by the family, and the groom has to declare before the elders whether the bride is a virgin.

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