The 1920s are often considered the "age of pleasure," a time of freedom and indulgence after the horrors of the Great War. Yet historians of sexuality have categorized Australia in the 1920s and 1930s as "conventional, moralistic, respectable." Sexuality was defined by monotony, with a seemingly endless focus on monogamy, reproduction, and heterosexuality. It was widely accepted that sex and babies were analogous, and reproduction was seen as key to the functioning of a healthy white Australia. All authorities, including church, state, medicine, and the press, condoned and indeed stimulated the relentless marital boundaries of normative sexuality. Thus, while Australia in this period saw increasing images of a more overtly sexual nature (and the flapper was the embodiment of this new physicality), this exception rather proves the rule. The more open sexuality of the flapper cannot necessarily be read as a paradigm shift within the institutions of social and moral authority, for most commentaries showed little change from late-nineteenth-century models and remained focused on reproduction and restraint. Despite the evident influence of the British advocate of contraception, Marie Stopes, and ideas of pleasure in the companionate marriage, sex was still something to be contained within domesticity and a framework of discipline. There was little or no sense within these discussions that intercourse might be entirely recreational. There was instead a search for moral order, for a perceived dignity and control over sexual practice: the biological urge for intercourse was to be indulged only in the structure of heterosexual procreative marriage.
Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 19, Issue 3, p. 389-408