Meet Our New Assistant Editors

Notches N

Notches’ Assistant Editor program recognizes and mentors promising graduate students who have an interest in digital humanities and public history and who are conducting cutting edge research on the history of sexuality. We are pleased to introduce our assistant editors for 2015-2016.

MC picMackenzie Anne Cooley is a Ph. D. candidate in the Stanford University Department of History, minoring in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation, “Generating Utopia: The Quest to Perfect Nature in Renaissance Italy, Spain, and the Spanish Americas, 1450-1620” explores perceptions of breeding in the sixteenth century, how utopian ideals affected animal and human bodies, and what that meant for the Spanish Empire. This research is supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities on Original Sources. Mackenzie has also promoted programming on “Bioethics and the Gendered Body” and is a founding member of the Research Group on Collective Trauma and Healing at Stanford. She tweets from @rovingnome

HeadshotSaniyaLeeGhanouiSaniya Lee Ghanoui is a media historian researching the cultural history of sex hygiene films in the United States and Sweden. Her current doctoral work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looks at how sex hygiene films transitioned from public theaters to schools and issues of censorship, technology, and sexuality; examines the films’ position and status; and explores their place in sex education curricula. Her research is rooted in gender and women’s studies, STS studies, media studies, and visual culture. She graduated with her MA in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU; her MA in Journalism from Emerson College; and her BA in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan College. Saniya tweets from @saniya1

Katya Motyl is a PhD candidate in Modern European History at the University of Chicago, as well as a Residential Fellow at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS). Her research interests include gender and sexuality in Central Europe, feminist and queer theory, embodiment, and the history of emotions. She is currently writing a dissertation that examines the history of sexuality in Vienna from 1893 to 1931 by looking to and feeling through women’s embodiment. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Österreichisches Austauschdienst (OeAD), as well as the Social Sciences Division (SSD) and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) at the University of Chicago. She is also working on a side project that examines the configuration of romantic love in long distance relationships in early twentieth century Central Europe. Katya tweets from @k_motyl

DSCN0333Caroline Radesky is a PhD candidate in the History Department and graduate student affiliate of the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on same-sex desiring individuals’ uses of history to construct transnational and transhistorical sexual subjectivities in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century U.S., England, and Germany. This research is supported by the Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation, The Kinsey Institute, and the University of Iowa. Caroline’s other research interests include memory studies, the history of emotions, queer theory, and feminist theory. She tweets from @radeskers

Wood - HeadshotWhitney Wood is a PhD Candidate (ABD) in the Department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo, Canada. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, her doctoral project explores the history of medical and cultural attitudes towards female bodies, pregnancy, childbirth, and labour pain in late-19th and early-20th century English Canada. Her research has appeared in the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History and the edited collection Pain and Emotion in Modern History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She has taught the history of sexuality at WLU and the University of Waterloo in both traditional classroom and online formats. Her next research project, currently in its early stages, will be a study of the natural childbirth movement in postwar Canada. She tweets from @whitneylwood

Get our latest posts on the history of sexuality delivered directly to your inbox. Join our monthly newsletter and we’ll keep you informed about our recent articles, author interviews, conference dispatches, and CFPs. Sign up here.

“When Sex Threatened the State”: An Interview with Saheed Aderinto

Histories of African Sexualities is an ongoing series at Notches addressing the role of sex and sexuality in African histories. We are excited to present the inaugural pieces in this series, which include an interview with Saheed Aderinto about his book When Sex Threatened the State, and a historical reconsideration of children’s sexual education in apartheid South Africa by Sarah Emily Duff. Each of these scholars invites us to reconsider our ideas about how sexuality functions within society, and specifically how discussions about sexuality entail much more than the intimate lives of individuals. We are currently accepting further submission for this series. Please send inquires to Sarah E. Watkins at


Interview by Pat Omoregie

Saheed Aderinto’s When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1958 (Illinois, 2015), explores tensions in colonial Nigeria through the lens of a struggle over how to control and regulate prostitution. Aderinto argues that the British perceived prostitution as evidence of African “primitiveness,” and used this perception to help justify their “civilizing mission” in West Africa. Using European and Nigerian archives and oral histories, Aderinto traces the fault lines in colonial Nigeria between the British colonizers and diverse groups of Nigerian colonized to illustrate how the debates over prostitution challenged both African and European conceptions of politics, sexuality, and society. The first comprehensive history of sexuality of colonial Nigeria, Aderinto’s book is an invaluable addition to both historiographies of colonial Africa and African sexualities.

when sex threatened the state

Continue reading

CFP: Histories of Sexuality and Religion

How have religious practices, identities, beliefs, institutions and politics shaped the history of sexuality?

Notches N

NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality ( invites submissions on histories of sexuality and religion. We welcome blog posts (1000-1500 words); interviews with scholars, archivists, and activists; as well as submissions to our “Archives of Desire” series in which historians reflect on specific primary sources and their value in researching or teaching histories of sexuality.

Possible questions for exploration include:

  • What discursive and material contexts constructed the relationship between religion and sexuality?
  • In what social institutions did religious and sexual experiences and ideas intersect?
  • How have sexual and religious identities been constructed in relation or opposition to each other?
  • In what ways did sexual subcultures and communities engage with mainstream and marginal religions? How did religious groups create alternative sexual subcultures?
  • How did religious authorities, ideas and institutions respond to or shape sexual values, meanings, practices and identities?

Style and image guidelines:

  • Submissions should be written for a non-specialist and international audience. Therefore, avoid jargon and use hyperlinks – not footnotes – to clarify terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to a general readership.
  • Include at least one relevant image for which you have obtained permission and caption your image with clear attribution information. We welcome your use of a range of sources such as movies or sound files.
  • Include a short hyperlinked author bio and photo with your submission
  • For more information see

Send submissions to Neil J. Young  by December 1, 2015. Submissions from outside North America are especially welcome. All submissions to NOTCHES will undergo an internal peer-review process. Proposals and queries are most welcome.

NOTCHES is an international, collaborative, open-access, peer-reviewed history of sexuality blog. With over 200,000 views, NOTCHES is at the center of international conversations about teaching and researching the history of sexuality.


image1Neil J. Young is an editor at Notches and specializes in post-1945 religion and politics. His book, We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics, will be published by Oxford University Press in November 2015.  Young’s research has appeared in the Journal of Policy HistoryAmerican Quarterly, and in Axel R. Schäfer’s Evangelicals and the 1960s. He writes frequently for publications, including the New York TimesSlate, and the Huffington Post.  He tweets from @NeilJYoung17

“What can I do to be normal?” Queer Female Desire in Letters to Dr. Alfred Kinsey

Amanda Littauer

In 1949, a year after the publication of Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s notorious Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, a young African American woman from the Bronx sent Kinsey a private letter lamenting the “queer control” she seemed to have over other women. These women, she explained, would literally leave their husbands and risk their safety to be with her. Lucinda Harrison,* a 28-year old African-American woman began her letter, “Dear Doctor Kinsey.”

I’ve been trying to get nerve enough to write you for some time. I’m reading your report on sex, [not] having as yet come across anything concerning my life. I am a woman of 28. As for as I know I must have control over every woman I meet, I am very sociable, easy to talk to, because I smile all the time. Wherever I go they will approach me asking when can I see you, let’s have dinner together, or buying expensive gifts for me. I hate to go to parties, for they love me so much. The women leave their husbands to come to me. They sit and stare at me, they ask embarrassing questions, such as are you Cold, or are you sexy, what control do you have over women…. I’ve broken so many hearts and didn’t know it, I’m not aware of this queer control. One woman jumps out of her window, after calling me up one morning. Once I went in the ladies room in Penn Station in N.Y. A lady asked me to pin her dress up, in so doing I put my arm around her waist, she turn around and said she felt so funny. Dr. I never approach them, is it something I could do, I want to be happy. I want to live a normal life. I just rec. a letter from a nurse, wants me to go away with her. Please Dr. Answer this letter, what can I do to be normal, is an operation for me. I often think of killing myself. I’m so miserable. Please help me, I have never told any one about my life before. I’m a negro [sic] girl, please help me. Thanking you very much.


Harrison was part of a small group of Americans who wrote letters to Kinsey seeking sexual advice about what constituted normative and non-normative sexual behaviors. Such letters to Dr. Kinsey reveal a central tension of postwar American sexual culture: Many Americans were obsessed with sexual adjustment and normality but their stories reveal sexual variance and a world of queer acts and possibilities. These tensions between overt norms and covert and queer possibilities, as historian Beth Bailey has argued, would underpin the sexual revolution. Letters to Dr. Kinsey offer insight into these tensions and into the intimate, emotional and fraught ways average Americans negotiated them.

Continue reading An Online Interactive Archives and Teaching Tool

Elise Chenier’s reflections on is the second of a four-part series on digital humanities and the history of sexuality. Our contributors, Charles Upchurch, Elise Chenier, Samantha Caslin and Bianca Murillo, all consider the ways that digital processes and interactions shape pedagogical approaches to the history of sexuality. Each author suggests a different digital humanities method to teach difficult topics effectively.

Elise Chenier

One of the most delightful things about doing historical research is finding something you least expect. In my case, it was Mavis Chu, a seventy-something-year-old daughter of an upper-middle-class white woman and working-class migrant of Asian heritage. I met Mavis while pursuing research on the relationship between participants in Toronto’s post-World War Two lesbian bar culture and the residents of Chinatown where the main hangout was located, but Mavis’ family photo album opened a door on a life of interracial intimacy that, up until now, was completely unknown to those who had not lived it.

Mavis Chu

D.Y. Chu and ‘friend’. (Chu Family Album).

Continue reading

Reading the History of Sexuality Collectively in the Digital Age

This is the first of a four-part series on digital humanities and teaching the history of sexuality. Our contributors, Charles Upchurch, Elise Chenier, Samantha Caslin and Bianca Murillo, all consider the ways that digital processes and interactions shape pedagogical approaches to the history of sexuality, and each suggests a different digital humanities method to teach difficult topics effectively.

Charles Upchurch

Digital technology makes it practical to replace the traditional pedagogical method – assigning all students the same excerpt from a primary source – with “collective reads” in which a class as a group reads and discusses an extensive primary source by breaking it into individual sections. An online version of a work like Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, one of the most important works of early sexology because of its nearly two hundred case studies presented over more than four hundred pages (in the 1894 edition), can be divided into units of around thirty pages. If the class is large, two or more students can sign up to read the same section, but the most important thing is to ensure that every part of the book is covered.


“The Street Stationer,” from Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, (1854)

Since students know they are the only one (or one of only a small number) responsible for a section, they are motivated to read their assigned portions carefully, and to represent their part of the work well to their peers. With everyone bringing a piece of the whole, some discussion time is spent piecing together the book’s overall argument. Doing this with Krafft-Ebing, for example, allows the students to see that the case studies have a real sequence and that they map out a continuum, across a spectrum from masculine to feminine, and from healthy to diseased. It helps when doing this for the instructor to have prepared fairly detailed notes on each section, so when the conversation turns, say, to the role of the fetish in Krafft-Ebing’s overall methodology, specific students can be called on who have read material related to this theme.

Continue reading

Archives of Desire: James Huneker “Nosophilia: A Nordau Heroine”

Nicolette Gable


James Huneker, “Nosophilia: A Nordau Heroine” in M’lle New York, October 1895

Published fortnightly in New York from 1895 to 1898,  M’lle New York was a “little” magazine, a periodical dedicated to current high art and literature. In this short story from M’lle, we find engagement with and mockery of physiognomic and degenerative theories of sexuality, a description of strange and ultimately fatal perversity, and commentary on the relationship between art and sexuality. This breadth of references suggests that discussions of sexuality, even “deviant” sexuality, were visible and vibrant within artistic and literary communities, even in an era of censorship.

Continue reading