By J. Crouthamel
This eye-opening examine offers a nuanced, provocative account of ways German infantrymen within the nice struggle skilled and enacted masculinity. Drawing on an array of appropriate narratives and media, it explores the ways in which either heterosexual and gay infantrymen expressed emotion, understood romantic beliefs, and approached intimacy and sexuality.
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Extra resources for An Intimate History of the Front: Masculinity, Sexuality, and German Soldiers in the First World War
4 Emancipated women, neurotic men, Jews, and homosexuals were seen as the enemies of middle-class standards of discipline and chastity. 5 The Ideal Man Goes to War O 17 In the decade just before the war, “manliness” was also becoming increasingly medicalized, as doctors took it on themselves to prescribe a bulwark against male degeneration. Leading psychiatrists in imperial Germany’s universities and medical clinics warned that modern industrial society bred degenerate psychological drives and behaviors, including sexual perversion.
Popular culture portrayed Germany as a nation of comrades. After the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War and German unification, the national community imagined through war memorials, religious commemorations for the dead, and the historical narrative built around Germany’s war experience sanctified the idea that one could only become a loyal subject and member of the Volk through soldierly prowess. 22 War was seen as a testing ground for manliness, and it provided the opportunity for men to demonstrate their individual worth within the collective act of defending the nation.
British women, for example, were represented as losing their grip on their feminine nature. In the Liller Kriegszeitung, a cartoon of an androgynous woman captioned “Newest English Fashion” poked fun at the enemy’s gender confusion. 59 In contrast, German women remained distinctly “feminine,” despite the pressures of total war. 60 “Enemy” women were further devalued in soldiers’ newspapers as objects that did not deserve respect. Serving as the “whore,” in opposition to the German 28 O An Intimate History of the Front woman as the “madonna,” Eastern European women in particular were seen as less than human, sexually promiscuous, and physically dirty and uncivilized.