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Impacts of War on Equality and Sexuality

The article confirms that war had many negative side effects, including sexual violence, rape, sexual enslavement and torture, and even genital mutilation. However, to comprehensively understand the effects of war from a gender dimension, it is vital to consider the shortcomings and the positive changes that accompanied it. For instance, although the struggle for equality among sexes dates years back, World War I contributed significantly. The article holds that men were drawn from worldwide to help in the war, leaving women back at home to care for the children. “Women on the home fronts often managed households on their own while they also did men’s jobs and demonstrated that they were quite competent to do so.”[1] This means that the absence of men during the war revealed women’s abilities, even to undertake tasks previously considered to be done by men. Besides being separated from the family, even men who returned to their women were too weakened by war, creating another loophole for more consensual relationships. Therefore, the weakening together with the reorganized social roles allowed recognition of women’s capabilities in the previously male-dominated areas.

Besides changes in social roles within a gender context, wars also initiated some liberal-oriented changes, which have remained in place to date though some are still contentious. For instance, the article holds that abortion and homosexuality were decriminalized following the outbreak of the Russian Revolution.[2] Therefore, the war helped break conservative cultural-based restrictions that limited individuals’ sexual freedom. The use of contraception also gained popularity as an alternative to abortion. Like in any other area, this change was necessary but did not come easily. It had to maneuver through church-based and conservatives’ resistance, but it formed a foundation for similar campaigns in the future. The church changed perception from patriarchal to compassionate marriages, which was yet another win from a sexual equality dimension.[3] Although the church continued to resist contraception and abortion, it also changed its previously rigid position, thus acknowledging that sex fosters mutual love and respect.

Another liberation came with the Spanish Anarchist women. They acted as activists campaigning to end sexual double standards within the gender context. To do so, women such as Amparo Gascon and Etta Federn directly attacked men-oriented power imbalance, calling for free love and plural love for women and men. The anarchist also attacked the deep-rooted monogamy form of marriage, saying its definition is somewhat limiting. That is, it should not mean forever but instead as long as feelings and love last. Arguably, the anarchist contributed to the slowly growing feminist waves, which were strengthened by war due to women’s empowerments and inclusion into male responsibilities that served as an eye-opener. Such a move encouraged other women worldwide to join the war for sexual equality between women and men, leading to the formation of equal rights organizations, for example, the World League for Sexual Reforms, whose influence spanned across Europe. The league advocated for changes, including the right to divorce, gender equality, the promotion of safe birth control, and the right of homosexuals.[4] Notably, the war-associated women empowerment allowed women to recognize their capabilities, which slowly but consistently turned into a campaign for equality. The campaign gave birth to organizations such as the World League for Sexual Reforms, whose recommendations have remained a pillar for sexual equality campaigns to date, mainly acknowledged by liberals.

Noteworthy, women were determined to end inequality; hence they persisted in their push. Men supported women’s emancipation but only in theory. They felt threatened when women practiced that freedom, forcing them to act. This led to the emergence of fascism which mainly intended to rebuild masculine privilege to maintain male dominance. Fascists wanted to restore male superiority by countering changes, such as women’s freedom, women’s employment, and so forth, in what the article calls nonpatriarchal restoration.[5] This was a major setback to the already developing equality. However, although it caused some kind of tremor, it did not stop the already too strong women’s liberation urge. Homosexuals experienced similar setbacks both in fascism and also in Nazism. However, Nazism and Fascism differed from the sexuality dimension in that fascism intended to restore male dominance while Nazism sought to restore the pure Aryan race. However, in their sexuality purification initiatives, homosexuals suffered from the strict legislation that increased their prosecution. This is because Nazis believed in the protection of manhood and the expansion of the pure race through increased reproduction.[6] Homosexual men did not live towards these expectations, which saw them suffer the contradictions. Like in the feminist emancipation, the homosexuality campaign endured Nazism and enjoyed increased acknowledgment from liberalists, a factor that contributed towards its decriminalization.

In conclusion, the article presents the historical progress of sexual liberalism in the context of the war. Women and homosexual rights have maneuvered resistance associated with the church, male superiority mentality, and ideological-related setbacks to reach the current stage, where, although not perfect, a significant development is evident. As seen in the article, war has been one of the significant contributors to this development.


Herzog, Dagmar. Sexuality in Europe: A twentieth-century history. Vol. 45. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[1] Herzog, Dagmar. Sexuality in Europe: A twentieth-century history. Vol. 45. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[2] Herzog, 2011.

[3] Herzog, 2011.

[4] Ibid, 2011.

[5] Herzog, 2011.

[6] Ibid, 2011.


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