The Pope and the pill : Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England

Hay, Kristin (2020) The Pope and the pill : Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England. Twentieth Century British History. ISSN 0955-2359 (

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Both the history of sex and the history of religion in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century have been under revision in recent decades. Yet, while these developments have occurred in parallel with one another, until recently they have rarely been investigated in tandem. This is the argument of David Geiringer and the focus of his first monograph, The Pope and the Pill. In this text, Geiringer explores the relationship between sex and religion in the post-war period through the lens of Catholic women—making a conscious effort to defy the binaries of the ‘sex destroying religion’ (p. 3) narrative which, he argues, has dominated the field in recent decades. The Pope and the Pill firstly explores how sex was understood and medicalized across the Catholic hierarchy in the postwar period. Then, through the use of oral history, Geiringer places emphasis on the lived experiences of Catholic women as they tried to navigate their sexuality and their faith during a period of increased liberationism. Centralizing the experiential, rather than the discursive, this text provides a novel and challenging insight into the ‘recategorization in the relationship between sex and religion’ (p. 6), and offers an exciting revisionist account of the sex lives of Catholic women during this time.