Scandal in Suburbia: Lesbian Wives, or the Hidden Threat to the Nuclear Family in Postwar America, brownbag lunch
In the United States during the 1950s and early 1960s cultural anxiety arose around white, middle-class "lesbian wives," married women who engaged in lesbian affairs. In psychoanalytic and pseudoscientific studies, journalistic reports, novels and films the lesbian wife was portrayed as imperiling her family's sanctity and undermining her husband's masculinity. While politicians sought to expel homosexuals who "infiltrated" the federal government, cultural producers could not and did not want to push lesbians out of the nuclear family. Rather, by repeatedly revealing the lesbian wife to the public they hoped to prevent divorce, reform errant wives, and reinforce the "natural" order of power within the white family. While lesbianism has played only a minor role in histories of women's sexual and domestic containment during the early Cold War, this talk will demonstrate how the discourse around the lesbian wife worked to police women's behavior within marriage.
Lauren Gutterman is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. She holds a Ph.D. in History from New York University, where she concentrated on twentieth-century U.S. history with a focus on women, gender, and sexuality.