lessons in sex and fascism (dagmar herzog’s pedagogy workshop)

On December 4, 2006 Dagmar
Herzog, Professor of History at the
The Graduate Center, CUNY, led a lively
workshop titled “What’s So Sexy About
Fascism? And Why is it Important to
Think About it in the Classroom?” as
part of the CLAGS/CSGS LGBTQ Lesson
Plans Pedagogy Workshop.
Herzog, who joined the Graduate
School faculty in 2005 as the Daniel Rose
Faculty Scholar, engaged the workshop
audience immediately by asking them
to share some of their students’ preconceptions
about sexual politics under the
Third Reich. The answers offered by
attendees demonstrated the importance
of teaching about the Nazi Party’s sexual
politics. For example, some students
assume that Nazism was generally repressive
to everyone under its control, while
others are apparently fascinated by the
mostly speculative details of Hitler’s
sexual activities.
Herzog returned frequently to one
of her main points, that the Nazi Party
was very sophisticated in its extensive
theorizing about sexuality. Although
Nazis are popularly conceived of as stupid,
they were actually ultra-modern in
reports
dagmar herzog’s pedagogy workshop
many ways, including their approach to
sexuality. Indeed, Herzog demonstrated
that this ultra-modernist perspective
resembles closely the conceptions of
sexual behavior that many people today
hold, including the concept that sex is
sacred, and that it should be a pleasurable
activity for both men and women. It is
necessary for teachers to illuminate for
students some of the ways in which Nazi
sexual politics are still relevant today as
the tendency is often to focus on how
different we are from the barbaric Nazis.
However, understanding of Nazi’s use of
sexuality and their theories about sexual
behavior can also shed light on sexual
practices and ideologies of today.
Furthermore, by exploring how the
Nazis deployed rhetoric of sexual choice
and sexual freedom (to those whom the
Nazis believed to have superior genes and
healthy minds and bodies), it becomes
evident how the Nazi Party managed
to be so appealing to so many people, despite the known atrocities they were
committing.
Attendees of Herzog’s workshop left
with a sheaf of handouts of cartoons,
drawings, and quotations, ideas for curricula
and class lessons, and a deeper understanding
of the necessity of this kind
of discussion in undergraduate classes.
The LGBTQ Lesson Plans Workshops
are presented every semester by the
Graduate Center’s Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies and New York University’s
Center for the Study of Gender and
Sexuality. The next workshop will be
help at NYU in Spring 2007. For more
information check the CLAGS website
for updates: www.clags.org.

Megan Jenkins is a PhD Candidate in musicology
at the The Graduate Center, CUNY. She teaches
at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music
and is the recipient of a CUNY Chancellor’s
Fellowship.