This article considers discussions of sexual difference in a range of popular prescriptive texts published between 1920 and 1940 in order to explore the relationship between science and American marital advice literature. It demonstrates the particular role science played in shaping, legitimising and enforcing changing discussions about what ‘good sex’ should look like in contemporary advice – supporting a hierarchy of sexual activities and desires that privileged a particular version of marital heterosexual expression. Through this, it also interrogates the ‘popular’ version of sexual science being consumed by the American public at this time. In addition to adding new perspectives to our understanding of contemporary advice and its relationship with science and medicine, it will also act as a provocation for further research into the ways the public engaged with sexual science in early twentieth-century America.
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