the ideal woman
the ideal woman

On masculinity and femininity, marital need and marital happiness - Erotic advice from the Jesuit collection of Theodoor van de Velde at the beginning of the 20th century

Location: The main administrative building of Maastricht University Minderbroedersberg 4-6

In response to the ‘crisis in marriage’ during the 1920s, the gynecologist Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde (1873-1937) wrote several books to save the marriage. In the exhibition space in the Minderbroedersberg an exhibition can be seen about the erotic advice of this gynecologist. According to Van de Velde, eroticism was the foundation of marriage. From a medical-psychological perspective, he gave advice to prevent boredom in the erotic field, paying considerable attention to birth control and contraceptives. Van de Velde was taboo-breaking in his time. His books were on the Catholic Index in the 1930s. Surprisingly, the Jesuits gathered Van de Velde’s publications in the library. In 1933 the Nazis threw these to the stake. Van de Velde initially focused on ‘the man’, who was given the knowledge and practice of sexual techniques to raise him to ‘a true lover’. In The Ideal Woman (1933), however, Van de Velde explicitly focused on ‘the woman’. This book - with no fewer than 480 film images and 54 full-page illustrations - was a kind of guide full of gymnastic exercises to improve sex efficiency. The aim was to "fully develop the sexual abilities of women", so that women as self-aware individuals could enjoy sex much more actively (and please her husband). Van de Velde's books were (international) bestsellers, which were reprinted until the 1970s. He was groundbreaking by writing openly about disconnection of sexuality and reproduction. At the same time he was traditional. He maintained a biologically based dichotomy between man and woman, between masculinity and femininity. Van de Velde confirmed the construction of heterosexuality within marriage as a norm.

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