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Antisemitism and Sexuality Reconsidered

Although constructions of Jewish sexualities and alleged Jewish attacks on sexual morals have played a significant role in modern antisemitic worldviews, – whether the same is true for premodern times has to be discussed –, only few historical studies have focused on the connection between sexualities and Jew-hatred. Against this backdrop, the conference aims to stimulate further research and debate on this topic. To bring the differences in the role sexualitites played in judeophobic discourses at different times and in different regions into view, the temporal and geographical focus of the conference reaches beyond the times of modern antisemitism and beyond ‘Western societies.’ In manifold ways, sexualities have played a crucial role in the history of judeophobia. Since ancient times, sexuality has been one of the fields where the borders between different communities, Jewish and otherwise, were drawn most fiercely. At least since the rise of modern antisemitism imaginary conceptions of deviant and dangerous ‘Jewish’ sexualities became crucial. In modern antisemitism, sexual desires attributed to Jews have been characterized by a transgression of the male-female binarity – a characteristic that corresponds to constructions of Jewish effeminate manhood and masculinized womanhood. Whereas discourses ascribed ‘unmanly‘ desires to Jewish men in different ways, Jewish women were constructed as seductive, passionate, and sexually active: attributes that have typically had a male connotation. At the same time, constructions of Jewish sexualities have reinforced notions of male activity and female passivity. Historians have demonstrated that the alleged deviant sexualities of Jews were inscribed into their bodies. Since the end of the 17th century discursive linkages between the circumcised penis and sexual amorality were shaped in debates about Jewish bodies. In addition, antisemitic discourses also constructed Jews as forces that used their alleged social power to undermine sexual morals and the sexual order. Adolf Hitler accused Jews of ‘mongrelizing’ the ‘white race’; Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, lamented that Jews spread a doctrine of ‘animalistic sexuality’; and contemporary far rightists fantasize about an alleged Jew-driven ‘porn conspiracy’ aimed at turning whole countries into “masturbatoria” and by this means strengthening and expanding alleged Jewish social dominance.


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