Archive for Sexology

The 18th Century

In 1735 the Swedish botanist Karl von Linné introduces his "methodus sexualis" i.e. a classification system in which plants are listed according to the character and number of their reproductive structures. This system (now obsolete) greatly impresses most contemporary scholars, but is also attacked as obscene by moralists, because it allows for the cohabitation of a male stamen with several female pistils in one and the same flower. This is considered a defamation of God who cannot possibly have created such depravity. Teachers are urged not to teach Linné's system in school.
The Lausanne physician Samuel Tissot, through his book "Onanism" (1760), becomes the most influential propagandist of the alleged dangers of masturbation. For the next 150 years, the fear of "masturbatory insanity" remains a dominant theme of disease prevention and adolescent sexual education.
The Genevan writer and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his influential book "Émile" (1762), demands the preservation of sexual 'innocence' in children and adolescents.
German educators like J. Oest and J. H. Campe devote themselves to the fight against masturbation.
The Marquis de Sade, imprisoned in the Bastille on a morals charge, secretly writes bizarre, outrageous and blasphemous masturbation phantasies ("The 120 Days of Sodom"), which also mock the "enlightened" belief that rational insight will make human beings reasonable, noble, and kind.
The English writer Mary Wollstonecraft, in 1792, publishes her "Vindication of the Rights of Woman", in which she demands female equality in education, private and public life, including politics. She unmasks the alleged 'natural' role of women in her time as the product of a patriarchal ideology.
The feminist goals had also earlier been supported by the Marquis de Condorcet in a publication of his own. However, they are soon abandoned by the reign of terror in the French Revolution and by the following political restoration.
The eminent physician John Hunter spells out the basic principles of sex therapy in the chapter 'Of Impotence' of his book "Treatise of the Venereal Disease".
Towards the end of the century, the English parson Thomas Malthus publishes his "Essay on the Principle of Population" (1798), in which he criticizes the optimism of the 'enlightened' writers of his time and warns against overpopulation, which will prevent mankind's lasting happiness.

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