The Birth of Sexology
Adapted and excerpted by permission from: "Introduction,"
in The Birth of Sexology: A Brief History in Documents, selected
and annotated with an introduction by Erwin J. Haeberle, pp. 4-12. Copyright
© 1983 by E.J. Haeberle.
The Birth of Sexology was prepared to commemorate 75
years of Sexology (1908-1983) for the 6th World Congress of Sexology,
May 22-27, 1983, Washington, DC.
An exhibit was presented at the conference
which consisted of 50 display boards, the first of which acknowledged
the support of The Kinsey Institute for the project. The exhibit subsequently
had a successful run in several countries, including Germany, Denmark,
Sweden, and Switzerland, before finding a permanent home in Shanghai,
at the Shanghai Sex Sociology Research Center.
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In our Western civilization attempts at a rational and systematic
study of human sexual behavior date back at least to the ancient
Greeks. Indeed, physicians like Hippocrates and the philosophers
Plato and Aristotle can be claimed as the legitimate forefathers
of sex research, since they made extensive observations and offered
the first elaborate theories regarding sexual responses and dysfunctions,
reproduction and contraception, abortion, sex legislation, and
sexual ethics. In imperial Rome, Greek physicians like Soranus
and Galen further advanced and systematized ancient sexual knowledge.
Their work, in turn, prompted later Islamic scholars to devote
a great deal of attention to sexual questions. These studies,
originally written in Arabic, were translated and introduced into
medieval Europe. Together with re-edited Greek and Roman manuscripts,
they became standard texts at newly established medical schools
and stimulated a rebirth of anatomical research in the 16th, 17th,
and 18th centuries. The names of Fallopio (Fallopian tubes), de
Graaf (Graafian follicles), Berthelsen (Bartholin's glands) and
Cowper (Cowper's glands) recall, even today, the first flowering
of modern anatomy and remain associated with the then newly discovered
parts of human sexual anatomy. The Age of Enlightenment ushered
in a vigorous and increasingly secularized discussion of sexual
ethics and produced the first programs of public and private sex
education as well as new classifications and documentations of
sexual behavior. In the 19th century, new concerns about overpopulation,
sexual psychopathy and degeneracy gave rise to the concept of
"sexuality" and led to intensified efforts on many fronts to get
a firmer intellectual grasp on a subject matter that rapidly seemed
to grow ever more complex. Biological, medical, historical, and
anthropological research by von Baer, Darwin, Mendel, Kaan, Morel,
Magnan, Charcot, Westphal, Burton, Morgan, Mantegazza, Westermarck,
Krafft-Ebing, Schrenck-Notzing, and others, laid the foundations
of sex research in the modern, more specific sense. Finally, at
the turn of the 20th century, the pioneering work of Havelock
Ellis, Sigmund Freud, and Iwan Bloch established the investigation
of sexual problems as a legitimate endeavor in its own right.
The concept of a special scientific and scholarly effort devoted
to the understanding of sex was first proposed by the Berlin dermatologist
Iwan Bloch (1872-1922), who also coined the new term for it: Sexualwissenschaft.
The term was first translated as "sexual science," but this is
somewhat misleading, since the German Wissenschaft comprises
both the natural sciences and the humanities. The translation
as "sexology" is therefore preferable, because the Greek root
logos, which is part of the word, traditionally refers
to all powers of reason and therefore to any rational study, to
organized knowledge of any kind. Thus, the Latin-Greek hybrid
"sexology" simply refers to the theoretical study of sex, just
as the German original. In this sense. Iwan Bloch may be rightfully
called the father of sexology (or Sexualwissenschaft).
The modern concept of sexology (i.e. the theoretical study of
sex or scientia sexualis) is, of course, to be distinguished
from the older concept of erotology (i.e. the practical study
of lovemaking or ars amatoria). Erotological writings
like Vatsayana's Kama Sutra and other Hindu love
manuals, indeed even recent Western counterparts like van de Velde's
Ideal Marriage or Comfort's Joy of Sex
want to guide the reader to subjective experiences. They are,
in a popular phrase, "how-to books." Sexological writings, in
contrast, want to convey objective insight. In this general sense,
therefore, the term "sexological" can also be applied retroactively
to older Western literature, such as Hippocrates' On Semen
or Schurig's Gynaecologia Historica-Medica.
The purely theoretical study of sex had, several decades before
Bloch, entered a new phase of concentration and specialization.
l9th-century medicine, elaborating a theme it inherited from the
Age of Enlightenment, began to concern itself more and more with
the bizarre, dangerous, and supposedly unhealthy aspects of sex.
As early as 1843, the Russian physician Heinrich Kaan, in his
book Psychopathia Sexualis, offered a classification
of sexual mental diseases, a method that was adapted, greatly
expanded and refined over forty years later by von Krafft-Ebing
in another book of the same title. Indeed, this pre-sexological
era of modern sex research was almost exclusively devoted to the
study of people believed to be sick. The sexual manifestations
of their sickness were carefully listed and, as a rule, ascribed
A broadening of this view could come only from outside medicine
and biology as they were then understood. Indeed, as the work
of Iwan Bloch demonstrates, it eventually came from two hitherto
neglected sources-history and anthropology. Bloch, a man of enormous
erudition, who spoke several languages and possessed a personal
library of 40,000 volumes, knew from his readings that many supposedly
pathological and degenerate sexual behaviors had always existed
in many parts of the globe and among both "primitive" and civilized
peoples. Therefore, he gradually came to the conclusion that the
medical view of sexual behavior was shortsighted and needed to
be corrected by historical and anthropological research. He began
to see the "sexual psychopathies" as timeless and universal manifestations
of the human condition and finally, in the first years of our
century, attacked the notion of sexual degeneration in a seminal
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In his monumental study Das Sexualleben Unserer Zeit
(The Sexual Life of our Time, 1907), Iwan Bloch offered this programmatic
The author of the present work...is...convinced
that the purely medical consideration of the sexual life, although
it must always constitute the nucleus of sexual science, is yet
incapable of doing full justice to the many-sided relationships
between the sexual and all the other provinces of human life.
To do justice to the whole importance of love in the life of the
individual and in that of society, and in relation to the evolution
of human civilization, this particular branch of inquiry must
be treated in its proper subordination as a part of the general
"science of mankind," which is constituted by a union of all other
sciences -- of general biology, anthropology and ethnology, philosophy
and psychology, the history of literature, and the entire history
Having thus mapped out the territory, Bloch proceeded to conquer
it. His enormous erudition allowed him to continue:
In so far as so comprehensive a mode of treatment
is possible to one individual, the author has endeavored, in his
investigation of the sexual life, to do justice to all these widely
divergent points of view, in order to facilitate a comprehensive
and objective consideration of all the relevant problems... Hitherto
there has existed no single comprehensive treatise on the whole
of the sexual life... The time is indeed fully ripe for an attempt
to sift... the enormous mass of available material, and to present
the result from a centralized standpoint.
This new, centralized standpoint was that of the sexologist,
and it soon came to be shared by others.
Bloch's new concept and his new term were eagerly embraced by
admiring colleagues, and thus, only one year later in 1908, Magnus
Hirschfeld was able to edit the first journal for sexology, the
Zeitschrift Fur Sexualwissenschaft. With this
important publication, sexology was formally launched and quickly
developed into a thriving academic endeavor.
The following text recapitulates briefly, in chronological order,
some of the early accomplishments:
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Hirschfeld's Zeitschrift Fur Sexualwissenschaft
was the first journal devoted to sexology as a science. Planned
as a monthly publication, it appeared for only one year (1908)
in 12 issues and then was incorporated into another, less specialized
journal edited by the young Max Marcuse. However, as a historical
document, this first attempt remains of enduring interest and
is, in fact, a treasure trove of significant insights. Its scope
was appropriately wide: The very first issue contained an article
by Sigmund Freud on "Hysterical Fantasy and Its Relation to Bisexuality,"
and subsequent issues presented original work by Adler, Abraham,
Stekel and Sadger. Thus, psychoanalysis was clearly announced
as a legitimate part of the sexological effort. Yet Hirschfeld's
editorial ambition reached further. He traveled to Italy and personally
obtained articles from the "grand old men" Mantegazza and Lombroso.
The latter's interest in forensic questions was, of course, shared
by Hirschfeld himself, who appeared as an expert witness in some
of the most sensational "sex trials" of his time. In addition,
the journal contained historical, philological, pedagogical, biological,
medical, and ethnological articles.
It is important to note in this context that the great Viennese
ethnologist Friedrich Salomon Krauss served (together with the
Leipzig physician Hermann Rohleder) as a co-editor of the journal
and was, in fact, one of the prime movers in broadening the concept
of sex research. His many contributions, and especially his journal
Anthropophyteia, deserve much more attention
than they are now receiving in sexological circles.
Eventually, in 1914, on the eve of the First World War, Iwan
Bloch and the "Nestor of German sex research," Albert Eulenburg,
made the second attempt at a purely scientific journal and once
more started the Zeitschrift Fur Sexualwissenschaft
as the official organ of the newly founded "Medical Society for
Sexology and Eugenics" in Berlin. As they state in their preface,
it intends to serve "the study of medical, natural, and cultural
problems of sexology." After Eulenburg's and Bloch's death, this
journal was also edited by Max Marcuse and survived until 1932.
In the following year, Marcuse escaped to Palestine and later
died as an Israeli citizen.
The historical importance of this great journal can hardly be
exaggerated. For nearly two decades it collected and published
the sexological work of the best minds of its time.
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The Arztliche Gesellschaft fur Sexualwissenschaft und Eugenik
(Medical Society for Sexology and Eugenics) was founded in Berlin
on February 21, 1913 by Bloch, Hirschfeld and several other interested
physicians. It was the first sexological society and, through
its above-mentioned journal, it soon exercised a considerable
national and international influence. Beginning with 15 founding
members, the membership increased to over 100 within the first
year. Also open to non-medical members with academic credentials,
the society held monthly meetings, usually of more than 2 hours,
in which papers were presented and discussed. Sigmund Freud, in
Vienna, dismissed the society as a forum created especially for
the mistaken ideas of Wilhelm Fliess, but this was a hasty and
erroneous judgment. Although it is true that Fliess was an active
participant, the personalities of the other members were much
too strong to be dominated by a single view.
It is also remarkable that, only a few months after the first,
a second sexological society was founded in Berlin, the Internationale
Gesellschaft fur Sexualforschung (International Society for Sex
Research). This rival organization, under the leadership of Albert
Moll, eventually developed into an influential force of its own.
It held international congresses and, ironically, also took over
the Zeitschrift fur Sexualwissenschaft under the editorship of
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It is impossible, in the present context, to give an adequate
account of the rich early sexological literature. It was, of course,
deeply rooted in the 19th century, which had already produced
a sizeable number of seminal works.
However, even considering only the first third of our century
before the rise of Hitler, there are so many great, if unjustly
forgotten sexological books, that only the sketchiest outline
can be given here.
The most important authors were once again Bloch, Moll, Hirschfeld,
and Max Marcuse. Of these, Iwan Bloch, the actual "father of sexology,"
is perhaps still the least understood. In addition to his medical,
historical, and ethnological studies and his earlier mentioned
Sexual Life of Our Time (1907), Bloch also made
the first great attempt at a comprehensive sexological standard
work. He planned a series of monographs, written by different
authors, which would cover the entire field. This ambitious project
under the title Handbuch der Gesamten Sexualwissenschaft
in Einzeldarstellungen (Comprehensive Handbook of Sexology
in Monographs) remained fragmentary because of the intervening
first World War and Bloch's untimely death. Nevertheless, three
volumes appeared: Bloch's own Die Prostitution
(Prostitution), 2 vols., 1912 and 1925, and Hirschfeld's Die
Homosexualitat des Mannes and des Weibes (Homosexuality
of Man and Woman), 1914. The latter study, based on personal knowledge
of over 10,000 individuals, was rightly hailed as the most thorough
work on the subject, an "encyclopedia of homosexuality," whose
historical introduction alone is still unsurpassed in depth and,
even today, would more than justify a translation.
However, it is Bloch's uncompleted and untranslated work which
deserves the greatest attention. He considered prostitution the
central problem of sexology, since it combined the biological
and cultural aspects of sex in the most dramatic and obvious fashion.
If ever an author was meant to do this subject justice, it was
Bloch. In his hands, Wilhelm von Humboldt's abandoned plan to
write a History of Whoring (1778) as a History
of Human Dependency would have succeeded, and thus, his
inability to finish the work was a tragedy for our field. We now
can only admire the outline and the amazing scholarship of the
completed part of his historical introduction. Nothing comparable
has ever been attempted again.
Albert Moll had, before the turn of the century, already written
the first great monographs on homosexuality (Die Contrare
Sexualempfindung, 1891) and the nature of the sexual
urge (Untersuchungen Uber Die Libido Sexualis,
1897). The latter book had a great and not fully acknowledged
influence on Freud, especially since it took infantile sexuality
for granted. Indeed, in 1909, Moll wrote the first comprehensive
study devoted to "the sexual life of the child," Das Sexualleben
Des Kindes. Finally, in 1911, he edited the first single
sexological handbook Handbuch Der Sexualwissenschaften.
This work was enlarged and updated in 1926. The two impressive,
richly illustrated, yet untranslated volumes of this edition represent
a milestone in sex research. Even by themselves, they were capable
of giving it academic legitimacy. Another remarkable achievement
was the Handworterbuch Der Sexualwissenschaft
(Hand Dictionary of Sexology), 1923, edited by Max Marcuse. It
contained lengthy articles by recognized authors on all aspects
of sexology. The entries dealing with psychoanalytic concepts
were written by Sigmund Freud himself, who thus formally re-established
some links with the sexology movement.
However, the most fertile sexological writer was Magnus Hirschfeld.
Even before his great study of homosexuality, he had already written
a classic work on transvestism, a term he himself had coined (Die
Transvestiten, 1910). Yet his position as the foremost
sexologist was secured by the two major works of his later years:
a textbook in three volumes, Sexualpathologie
(Sexual Pathology), 1916-20, and his sexological testament, the
sum of 30 years of research and experience, a heavy, large-size
standard work in five volumes called Geschlechtskunde
(Sexual Knowledge), 1926-30.
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Another area of sexological activity that deserves to be recalled
is the production of films. Iwan Bloch, even before the end of
the first World War, served as an advisor for a dramatic film
about the problem of syphilis: Es Werde Licht
(Let There be Light), 1916-18. This film was also supported by
the Medical Society for Sexology and eventually grew into a project
of several parts. Its director was Richard Oswald, later also
successful with non-sexological films in Berlin and Hollywood.
Oswald further made several films in close collaboration with
Magnus Hirschfeld, of which the best known is perhaps Anders
Als Die Andern (Different from the Others), 1919, a plea
for the decriminalization of homosexual behavior. In this film,
Conrad Veidt, who later played the Nazi officer in Casablanca
with Humphrey Bogart, appears as a homosexual violinist who is
blackmailed and commits suicide. It was the first popular film
ever to deal with homosexuality, and at least parts of it are
preserved in various film archives.
How many of the other films made with Hirschfeld are still in
existence is unclear. Hirschfeld himself mentions five films in
his last list of publications.
Another important contribution was the Steinach film (1923),
produced with Austrian support by the Berlin film company Ufa.
In documentary fashion, it introduced a wider public to the endocrinological
studies of Eugen Steinach. This full-length sexological film was
also briefly shown in New York before the Medical Society, but
did not find an American distributor.
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In 1919, Hirschfeld was able to realize his greatest ambition
and to found the world's first Institute for Sexology. It was
housed in one of Berlin's finest buildings (a former residence
of Prince Hatzfeld, the German ambassador to France), set up as
a foundation, turned over and accepted by the government. This
institute became the center of considerable research and therapeutic
activity and soon gained recognition worldwide.
Reflecting the interdisciplinary approach of its founder, the
institute was devoted to four major areas of research: sexual
biology, sexual pathology (medicine), sexual sociology, and sexual
ethnology. Its library housed over 20,000 volumes, 35,000 photographs,
large numbers of objects and works of art. In addition, approximately
40,000 confessions and biographical letters were on file. The
staff consisted of Hirschfeld himself, an archivist, a librarian,
four secretaries, and various assistants. Among the institute's
many activities, three are especially noteworthy: (a) a large
premarital counseling practice, the first of its kind in Germany,
(b) regular public lectures and discussions on sexological topics,
and (c) a medico-legal service for expert testimony, especially
in criminal cases. In all of these areas, Hirschfeld also trained
young scholars and scientists, such as the gynecologist Ludwig
Levy-Lenz and Josef Hynie, later professor of sexology in Prague.
Moreover, the institute had visitors from many countries, from
Margaret Sanger and Harry Benjamin to Jawaharlal Nehru, Andre
Gide and the young Christopher Isherwood. In short, it was an
important cultural asset not only for the city of Berlin but also
for the whole country and, indeed, the world.
However, on May 6, 1933, a little more than 3 months after Hitler
had come to power, the institute was ransacked by a Nazi mob and
its books and papers publicly burned. This surprisingly early
attack on sexology has led to speculation as to its motives. The
anti-Semitic impulse was, of course, obvious, but Levy-Lenz, who
had been on the staff at the time, later ascribed the official
vandalism to the fact that many prominent Nazis had been patients
and that the institute "knew too much" about the party leadership.
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Finally, we may remember with pride another great legacy of the
early sexology movement -- international scientific congresses.
Here again, Hirschfeld was the pioneer. In 1921, two years after
the opening of his institute, he organized the first sexological
congress in history, the International Meeting for Sexual Reform
on a Sexological Basis in Berlin. It was one of the first international
congresses of any kind in Germany after the Great War, and the
tireless Hirschfeld had managed to assemble an organizing committee
of scientists from Tokyo and Peking to Moscow, Copenhagen, London,
Rome and, indeed, San Francisco (Dr. Victor G. Vecki).
The six-day congress presented 38 papers in four major areas:
(a) Sexual Endocrinology, (b) Sex and the Law, (c) Birth Control,
and (d) Sex Education. It ended with a call for legal and social
reform, a goal that was widely supported, but which also evoked
much academic criticism. Albert Moll, for example, Hirschfeld's
fellow sexologist and rival, condemned the congress as mere "propaganda"
and, five years later, organized the first, "purely scientific"
International Congress for Sex Research also in Berlin (1926).
It covered roughly the same areas as Hirschfeld's earlier congress,
but offered nearly three times as many speakers. Among these,
were Harry Benjamin, Eugen Steinach, Norman Haire and Bronislaw
Malinowski. This was followed by a second and last congress in
London in 1930, which was otherwise less distinguished, although
it did feature Ernest Jones with a paper on psychoanalysis.
Hirschfeld, who was more energetic than Moll, succeeded in organizing
four more international congresses in Copenhagen (1928), London
(1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932). The Copenhagen congress
led to the founding of the World League for Sexual Reform, with
Hirschfeld, Auguste Forel, and Havelock Ellis as the first presidents.
This organization sponsored the next congresses, and among its
speakers were some of the most impressive personalities of the
time: J. H. Leunbach, Norman Haire, Max Hodann, Kurt Hiller, Helene
Stocker, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes, Ernst Grafenberg, Harry
Benjamin, Elise Ottesenlensen, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard
Shaw, Ernst Toller, Wilhelm Reich, Friedrich S. Krauss, and Benjamin
B. Lindsey. Curiously enough, once the Nazis had seized control,
even countries other than Germany became less hospitable to the
open discussion of sexual reform. No more congresses could be
held, and thus, after Hirschfeld's death, the league dissolved.
We have, in this summary, deliberately passed over all psychoanalytic
contributions, since Freud and his followers have fortunately
found and retained the academic and popular recognition they deserve.
To a lesser extent, this is also true of Wilhelm Reich, whose
work is now, at least in part, again being appreciated. Thus,
their place in history seems secure. We hope to have shown, however,
that in the first third of our century, there was far more to
the study of sex than psychoanalysis, and that, as far as sexology
proper is concerned, Freud was only a marginal figure.
Unfortunately, this brief tribute does not permit a closer examination
of these issues. Let us, however, emphasize as strongly as possible
that to honor the memory of our unjustly forgotten pioneers is
more than an overdue act of piety or intellectual restitution.
It is, in fact, an indispensable first step in raising our own
consciousness. If we do not regain our past that has been stolen
from us, we sexologists will not have the academic future to which
we are otherwise well entitled.
And let it be understood that the rediscovery of our roots also
involves a new understanding of the whole scientific, cultural,
social, and political context in which they are embedded. After
all, the Vienna of Friedrich S. Krauss, Sigmund Freud, Eugen Steinach,
and Wilhelm Reich was also the Vienna of Mahler, Schonberg, Klimt,
Schiele, Loos, Weininger, Wittgenstein, Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal,
Karl Kraus, and the young, unemployed Adolf Hitler.
Berlin, in Hirschfeld's lifetime, changed from a quiet, almost
rural Prussian town into the large German capital and hectic metropolis.
He, as well as Eulenburg, Bloch, Moll, and Max Marcuse lived through
the most extraordinary scientific upheavals, technological innovations,
cultural breakthroughs, social upheavals and political changes.
Berlin was the city of Bismarck and Bebel, Rosa Luxemburg and
Walter Rathenau, Fontane and Doblin, Menzel and Liebermann, Zille
and Grosz, Max Reinhardt, Brecht, Weill, and Piscator, the great
film companies and the small cabarets; it was Kaiser Wilhelm's
imperial residence and the heart of "Weimar culture." All of this
had its impact on our pioneers. It constituted the climate in
which sexology was conceived and could grow.
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After the Second World War, sexology experienced a renaissance
in America through the efforts of Alfred C. Kinsey. His training
and experience as a zoologist made him well suited for the task
of taking a large-scale, strictly empirical survey of actual sexual
behavior in the United States. With their two monumental studies,
the so-called Kinsey Reports (Sexual Behavior in the Human
Male, 1948, and Sexual Behavior in the Human
Female, 1953), Kinsey and his co-authors made a new,
significant, and non-medical contribution to sex research. Moreover,
it could honestly be called sexological in the sense demanded
by Bloch, because it was the result of interdisciplinary teamwork.
As Kinsey himself made clear in the "Historical Introduction"
to the first volume:
Throughout the nine years of study many hours
have been spent in consultation with specialists outside this
staff, particularly in the following fields: Anatomy, animal behavior,
anthropology, astronomy (statistical), biology, child development,
criminal law, endocrinology, general physiology, genetics, gynecology,
human physiology, institutional management, law enforcement, marriage
counseling, medicine (various branches), military authorities,
neurology, obstetrics, penology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychology
(general), psychology (clinical), psychology (experimental), public
health, public opinion polls, sex education, social work, sociology,
statistics, urology, venereal disease.
Kinsey further explained that he did not expect future sex research
to remain restricted to this preliminary list. He therefore offered
a broad outline of a basic sexological library, which, in his
opinion, had to cover at least all of the following fields:
Biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology,
medicine, marriage counseling, child development, personnel programs,
public opinion surveying, radio programs, philosophy, ethics,
religion, education, history, law, law enforcement, literature,
arts, and erotica.
As one can see, Kinsey's interests ranged wide, and indeed he
succeeded in amassing a substantial library and collection along
the lines he had indicated. Unfortunately, with his untimely death
in 1956, and with the loss of previous financial support, his
ambitious research programs for the future had to be curtailed
drastically. Since then, The Kinsey Institute, under the directorship
of Paul H. Gebhard (1956-1982) continued its work on a reduced
scale. Recently (1982), the directorship has been taken over by
June M. Reinisch.
In the last few decades scientific attention has again shifted
to medical and physiological studies. Mainly under the impact
of two other pathbreaking books, Human Sexual Response
(1966) and Human Sexual Inadequacy (1970) by
William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson, researchers have concentrated
on treating the sexual dysfunctions of the individual (or at most,
the couple). As a result, the social and historical dimensions
of sex have largely been neglected.
Thus, in the public mind, sexology is today often associated
with "sex therapy," a medical, paramedical, or quasi-medical enterprise.
This perception is, of course, wrong about both sexology in general
and sex therapy in particular. After all, the latter is, to a
large extent, no longer based on a medical model, but rather on
various learning models of human behavior. Consequently, many
sex therapists are not members of the medical profession, and
the people they treat are no longer called patients, but clients.
Nevertheless, there are still strong tendencies on the part of
many therapists and researchers to borrow respectability from
the medical establishment and to reintegrate sexology into medical
schools as a specialty for physicians.
However, its own historical development tells us that sexology,
properly understood, cannot grow on this narrow basis. The exploration
and manipulation of physical and psychological responses is, at
best, a sexological side issue. The holy aura of "therapy" should
not blind us to the dangers of uncritical, ahistorical specialization.
Indeed, we must realize that the academic dominance of a purely
medical sexology would be a throwback to Victorian times, in spite
of its increased technological sophistication. We deceive ourselves
if we expect significant progress in understanding human sexuality
by putting our faith in the mindless collection of more "data"
or in the refinement of therapeutic techniques. Rather, the study
of sex must first gain a critical consciousness of its own origin
and historical role. After all, "human sexuality" or "sexual behavior"
and similar constructs which now figure as the "objects" of sexology,
are not concrete, finite, and clear-cut entities that can be touched,
weighed, or measured. Instead, the are concepts which were developed
in the course of a continuing larger historical process. All the
key words, phrases, expressions, and concepts of modern sexology
were unknown to the classical writers of the past. "Sexuality,"
"homosexuality," "sexual behavior," "sex drive," "sexual response,"
"sexual dysfunction," -- none of these terms can be found in the
Bible, in Homer, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, Voltaire, or Goethe.
Neither would the American Founding Fathers have understood them.
Indeed, even today the exact meaning of these concepts remains
unclear to the extent that their historical origin remains unexamined.
This becomes immediately obvious when one looks for their definition
in dictionaries, encyclopedias, or professional textbooks. The
current definitions are either tautological or carry a whole system
of unquestioned, but unwarranted assumptions. These assumptions,
in turn, can be understood only on the basis of a historical analysis.
In short, the study of sex is, above all, a study of ideas, and,
as it turns out, very often the study of foolish ideas. Sexology
is therefore mainly Ideologiekritik, or the critical examination
Fortunately, there are some counterforces which try to rectify
the present sexological imbalance, and which seek to reconnect
sexology with its long and honorable lost tradition.
An important and meaningful link to the past has been the reconvening
of World Congresses of Sexology in Paris (1974), Montreal (1976),
Rome (1978), Mexico City (1979), Jerusalem (1981), and Washington
(1983). These congresses have, once again, taken up the work originally
started by Hirschfeld and Moll.
Furthermore, several European universities (Prague, Hamburg,
Frankfurt, and Leuven [Belgium]) now have departments of sexology,
and in the United States there are a number of undergraduate and
graduate Human Sexuality Programs. In San Francisco, a sexological
graduate school, The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality,
even awards academic degrees specifically in sexology.
Still, the goal envisioned by Ellis, Freud, Bloch, Hirschfeld,
Moll, Marcuse and other sexological pioneers has not nearly been
approached, much less reached everywhere. As sex research advances,
the variety of goals and methods in a multitude of disciplines
itself creates a problem of correlation and evaluation. The loss
of perspective is therefore a constant threat. In other words,
Bloch's sexological "centralized standpoint" is more important
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