‘I caught it and yours truly was very sorry for himself’
Mapping the emotional worlds of British VD patients
in Patient voices in Britain, 1840–1948
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This chapter makes the case for using less traditional sources to access the emotional and psychological experiences of patients who lived with stigmatising venereal diseases. Fears about VD became conflated with and exacerbated by a variety of national and imperial crises. At the same time, however, public discussion of VD (and its perceived association with moral malaise and racial health) was aggressively suppressed. Such tensions were further complicated during the interwar years with growing institutional efforts to bring VD within the remit of preventative medicine. Tension between fear and suppression on the one hand, and fascination and scrutiny on the other, fundamentally shaped patient experiences. But it has also meant that patient-authored records of sexual ill-health are scant. In the absence of more traditional historical archives, works of fiction become especially valuable, laying bare the emotional and psychological costs of living (and dying) with VD. This chapter also considers how historical reflections on such stigmatising illness experiences can help to overcome contemporary inequalities in access to sexual-health services.

Editors: Anne Hanley and Jessica Meyer

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