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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


DUFF, S.E.. 'Facts about Ourselves': Negotiating sexual knowledge in early twentieth-century South Africa. Kronos [online]. 2015, vol.41, n.1, pp.215-235. ISSN 2309-9585.

The focus of this article is on the introduction of sex education to middle-class white children in South Africa during the 1920s and 1930s. It argues that 'Facts about Ourselves for Growing Girls and Boys', a pamphlet put out by the Johannesburg Public Health Department in 1934, opens a window onto the ways in which sexual knowledge was mobilised to teach white, middle-class children correct forms of heterosexuality, as well as to assert and patrol boundaries between these children and African adults, particularly men. Until relatively recently, the field of the history of sexuality has been dominated by efforts to retrieve the histories of marginalised groups. This risks implying that heterosexuality is not historically contingent - that it is fixed, unchanging, and not inflected by race, class and gender. An analysis of 'Facts about Ourselves' and the mobilisation of sexual knowledge becomes, then, a means of tracing the history of the construction of 'normal' sexuality and so historicising heterosexuality.

Keywords : Sex education; childhood; youth; race; Red Cross; advice manuals; Johannesburg; eugenics.

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