Amid the national shame and subjugation following World War I in France, cultural critics there—journalists, novelists, doctors, and legislators, among others—worked to rehabilitate what was perceived as an unhealthy social body. Carolyn J. Dean shows how these critics attempted to reconstruct the “bodily integrity” of the nation by pointing to the dangers of homosexuality and pornography. Dean's provocative work demonstrates the importance of this concept of bodily integrity in France and shows how it was ultimately used to define first-class citizenship.
Dean presents fresh historical material—including novels and medical treatises—to show how fantasies about the body-violating qualities of homosexuality and pornography informed social perceptions and political action. Although she focuses on the period from 1890 to 1945, Dean also establishes the relevance of these ideas to current preoccupations with pornography and sexuality in the United States.