Men’s Anxiety: A Refl ection on Changing Sexual Norms in Soviet Lithuanian Literature of the ‘Th aw’ Period

Men’s Anxiety: A Refl ection on Changing Sexual Norms in Soviet Lithuanian Literature of the ‘Th aw’ Period




Soviet literature, sexual norms, Alfonsas Bieliauskas, Mykolas Sluckis, Justinas Marcinkevičius, Juozas Baltušis, Soviet Lithuania


The article aims to analyse the social and cultural change of the society reflected in the literature written by Soviet Lithuanian male writers in the 1960s, during the late ‘thaw’ period, which was chosen to be analysed through the prism of sexual norms. The aim is to show that an analysis of the male gaze can reveal not only the patriarchal power expressed through literature, but also a wider range of men’s reactions to life in Soviet society and its changes. The article examines four works by writers of the Soviet period, whose works were translated into 15–20 languages: Justinas Marcinkeviiius’ novella The Pine That Laughed, Mykolas Sluckis’ novel Adam’s Apple, Alfonsas Bieliauskas’ novel The Kaunas Novel, and Juozas Baltušis’ short story ‘A Girl Passed By’.

Through the socio-cultural tensions related to sexual norms and practices, these writers reflect on the changing social reality through the still dominant patriarchal gaze. However, this reflection is ambiguous, dynamic and imbued with doubt and anxiety about the modernisation of society, especially the emerging new roles and status of women. The overt reproach and didacticism expressed by men in literature are interpreted as a feeling of moral panic that the patriarchal power is weakening, a process of changes is approaching, and that nothing can stop them.

Author Biography

Tomas Vaiseta, Vilnius University, Faculty of History, Lithuania

In 2012, he defended his PhD thesis The Society of Boredom: Late Soviet Lithuania (1964–1984) at Vilnius University. He has been a lecturer at the Faculty of History of Vilnius University since 2014 and an associate professor since 2018. His research interests include cultural and social history of Lithuania in the second half of the 20ᵗh century. As a writer, he has published three books (a collection of short stories and two novels), edits articles and books, served as editor-in-chief of the culture magazine Naujasis Židinys-Aidai from 2015 to 2018, and hosts the radio programme Pirmas sakinys (The First Sentence) on the Lithuanian Radio Classic.