Den moraliska kroppen : Tolkningar av kön och individualitet i 1800-talets populärmedicin

Sammanfattning: The 19th century is often described as a period when sexual differences were strongly accentuated in medical interpretations. While this is not an inaccurate description, it is in need of greater nuance. For one thing, notions of the male are usually forgotten in the process. As the female body by the shift to the 18th hundreds, to a greater extent than before, became associated with reproduction and biological constraints of various kinds, representations of the male body also changed. According to medical texts published in Sweden in the 19th century, men’s blood, bones, breath and digestion bore witness to their "freedom" from a forced sexual body. Physically, the male constituted an abstract, cultivated and highly differentiated individual, focused on his own development and wellbeing. The male body was described as clearly fit for public and political life, which legitimized male claims to a monopoly on power as well as the doctrine of "the separate spheres" in 19th century bourgeois society.But there is more to this story. A closer examination of more limited discussions in medical texts and advice literature reveal that representations of the male and female body were remarkably unstable and marked by tensions and contradictions. During the Romantic era of medicine in Sweden during the 1830’s and 40’s, the way sex and individuality in the body were valued were totally different from the description above. Reproduction and physical desires were characteristic, according to a number of medical men, of highly developed creatures, connected to God, society, and culture, whereas sexless species, immature children and "lower" peoples were seen as materialistic and focused only on their own individual development. Discussions regarding female puberty and single men further reveal the unstable polarization between sex and individuality as well as culturally constructed differences, not only between men and women, but also between classes, age groups, single and married persons, cultivated and non-cultivated peoples. Notions about nature/culture, tradition/progress, female/male, sex/individuality were not organized into stable dichotomies—rather they constituted an unstable body of representations.