Securing Sex

By Benjamin A. Cowan,

Book cover of Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil

Book description

In this history of right-wing politics in Brazil during the Cold War, Benjamin Cowan puts the spotlight on the Cold Warriors themselves. Drawing on little-tapped archival records, he shows that by midcentury, conservatives-individuals and organizations, civilian as well as military-were firmly situated in a transnational network of right-wing cultural activists.…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Securing Sex as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book contributes greatly to the global history of the Cold War by showing that “moral technocrats” during the military dictatorship in Brazil equated political subversion with sexual subversion: Anticommunist countersubversion included anxieties about gender, sex, and youth. South American Cold War dictatorships have been traditionally understood as modernizing projects but Cowan complicates the definition by exploring the moral panic, and consequent calls and attempts at repression, related to the sexual revolution, new forms of female sexual expression, and pornography. 

I like this book a lot, too, as it sheds new light on another significant site of contention in the Cold War world: gender and sexuality. While much has been written about torture, repression, and resistance during the Brazilian dictatorship (1964-85), Cowan’s book reveals how battles waged across sexual and bodily practices, clothing, music, art, and gender were of paramount importance in Cold War Brazil. 

It explores Brazilian right-wing’s Cold War narratives and shows how their anti-communist politics actually aimed to contain various socio-cultural transformations in the 1960s, such as the increasing prominence of premarital sex, homosexuality, birth control, and…

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