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Un/doing Masculinity. Wet dreams: from the 18th Century to the Present

This workshop is organised within the research project “Polluting nights: masculinity and medicine in Switzerland and France (XVIII -XX centuries)” funded by the SNSF and the CMCSS of the University of Geneva.

At the crossroads of the history of medicine, gender, sexuality and sleep, this workshop offers an
historical exploration of wet dreams between the 18th and 21st centuries. Referring to ejaculation during
sleep, nocturnal emission (also called “sex dream”, “nightfall”, “sleep orgasm”, “Exoneirosis”,
“gonorrhoea dormientium”, “paroniria salax”, or “profluvium seminis”) has received a great deal of
medical attention throughout history but has been little explored by historiography. Initially affecting
both men and women, nocturnal pollution was gradually associated with male bodies, and alternately
described as pathological or as part of normal physiology. Thought of by doctors and patients as a
phenomenon affecting all men, they gradually became a biomedical marker of puberty. The history of
medical controversies and clinical practices concerning nocturnal pollution therefore enables us to
analyze the way in which virile performance and masculine concerns have been defined, contested and
renegotiated over time.

Several axes have been identified:
1) How and why nocturnal emission has been “masculinized”.
2) How and why nocturnal emission has been associated with both physiology and pathology in
different contexts.
3) How wet dream affects the various fields of health: medicine, sexology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry…
4) When and how nocturnal emission becomes a biomedical marker of male puberty.
5) How the control of seminal discharge becomes an issue of hegemonic and subaltern masculinities.
6) The representations and medical practices surrounding nocturnal emission in non-Western medicine
(e.g. DHAT).
7) What about women’s wet dreams?

Proposals of 4000-6000 characters including spaces, must be accompanied by a biography of one
page max and should be sent to pollutions.nocturnes.recherche@gmail.com by January 29, 2024
at the latest. They may be written in French, English, Spanish or Portuguese.
A reply will be given by February 29, 2024.