Colclough, Gillian (2010) Innocent, not ignorant: oral recall of sexual knowledge and conduct by early twentieth century north Queensland women. Journal of Australian Studies, 34 (1). pp. 79-93. ISSN 1444-3058
Social changes during the early twentieth century inspired concern about the sexual knowledge and conduct of young people, particularly young women. While there are many records of the opinions of social activists involved with the so-called sex debates, open discussion on sexual topics aroused such discomfort that frank accounts are rare from ordinary people involved in the social transformations of the period. A small number of such accounts are held in the North Queensland Oral History Project at James Cook University, where the recordings of a group of elderly women, undertaken in the 1980s, show that these women entered adolescence and adulthood with little or no understanding of their bodies or the possible outcomes of sexual activity. Stories of ideas and experiences on these matters are particularly important to historians and highlight the need for oral history facilitators to provide settings that promote frank disclosure. In analysing the content and circumstances of the oral accounts concerned, this article supports prominent theories about the disclosure of socially sensitive subjects and provides insights into early twentieth century sexual knowledge and attitudes in North Queensland.
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