Sex, gender and romantic intimacy in servicemen's letters during the Second World War

TWELLS, Alison (2019). Sex, gender and romantic intimacy in servicemen's letters during the Second World War. The historical journal.

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This article explores sex and romance as under-examined aspects of wartime masculinities through a focus on letters from servicemen recipients of 'comforts' to girls and women who knitted for them during the Second World War. It examines the tension between the cultural ideal of 'temperate heroism' that formed the hegemonic masculinity during WW2, and evidence of the normativity of predatory male sexuality and sexual violence, both in combat and on the Home Front. Servicemen's letters to anonymous knitters reveal the deployment of romance as a mechanism for maintaining morale. They further reveal evidence that some men were able to manipulate their image as ‘heroes’ and make use of the comfort fund as a vehicle for engaging in sexually explicit correspondence and transgressive and even deviant behaviours. A foregrounding of romance and sexuality suggests that we need to look again at arguments relating to the contiguity or otherwise between military cultures and middle- and working-class civilian codes of respectable masculinity and male heterosexual expression. The article further engages with critiques in the history of masculinity of the neglect of working-class masculinities and the tendency to focus on cultural scripts about masculinity rather than what men actually did or felt.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2103 Historical Studies; History
Identification Number:
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2019 08:57
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 03:32

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