Publication Date

Spring 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Marko Dumančić (Director), Eric Reed, and Dorothea Browder

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Between 1987 and 1991, Soviet filmmakers and journalists utilized Gorbachev’s glasnost reform policy to depict or discuss sexuality in cinema and the popular press. I argue that Soviet film and popular press discourses on sex in this period reveal a continuity of conservative sexual mores, which were interwoven with social and moral conservatism regarding the centerpiece of Soviet society, the Soviet family. Furthermore, these discourses take on a fundamentally misogynistic tone, in that women are tasked with defending sexual purity, and thus familial integrity, while simultaneously being cast as those most susceptible to the power of sexual enticement. Thus, the comparatively permissive discourse about sex and sexuality in the 1980s can be interpreted not as a “sexual revolution,” but as an explosion in social and moral anxieties, that were unique to the glasnost period, about the Soviet way of life. Additionally, this study challenges the concept of the totalitarian Soviet system by highlighting intellectuals’ persevering conservatism during a period where the state did not expressly govern or censor discourses on sex and sexuality.


Cultural History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies