Archive for Sexology

The 19th Century

1822 The Englishman Francis Place and others begin a "neomalthusian" campaign for contraception. In the course of the 19th century the most important representatives of this campaign are Charles Bradlaugh, Annie Besant, Charles Knowlton, Charles Drysdale and Alice Vickery Drysdale. Their efforts to improve the lot of working women, who were exhausted by too many births, do not find the support of Marx und Engels.
The German philosopher and librarian Friedrich Karl Forberg publishes in Latin his study "De Figuris Veneris" (Manual of Classical Erotology), a collection - with commentary - of ancient Greek and Roman texts referring to a great variety of sexual behaviors.
In Berlin, Wilhelm von Humboldt sketches the (unexecuted) plan for a "History of Dependency in the Human Race", which was also to contain a "History of Whoring" and a "History of the Procreative Drive". He provides a neutral classification of human sexual behavior according to its four possible objects: 1. Self, 2. other sex, 3. same sex, 4. animal.
1827 Karl Ernst von Baer discovers the egg cell.
1837 In Paris the first great study of prostitution is published: A. J. P. Parent- Duchatelet, "De la prostitution de la ville de Paris".
1838 The Berlin physician Friedrich Adolf Wilde describes, for the first time, an occlusive pessary for women as a means of contraception. (It is reinvented in 1881 by the North-German physician W. A. Mensinga.)
1843 The Ruthenian physician Heinrich Kaan publishes his study "Psychopathia sexualis", in which sins of the flesh are reinterpreted as diseases of the mind. Following this initiative, other physicians and psychiatrists also begin to use medieval theological terms of disapproval like "deviation", "aberration", and "perversion". Originally, these had referred to "false" religious beliefs or heresy; now they begin to turn into (pseudo)medical concepts. The whole process is known in cultural history as the 'medicalization of sin'.
The vulcanisation of rubber by Goodyear and Hancock makes the mass production of condoms possible.
1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convene the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The convention passes a Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women.
1857 The French physician B. A. Morel advances the concept of physical and mental "degeneration" (also known as hereditary and progressive 'degeneracy'), which, among other things, supposedly explains sexual "misbehavior". This concept finds wide acceptance not only in science, but also with writers of fiction and indeed dominates much of the medical and socio-political debate until early in our century, when it is finally abandoned.
The German lawyer Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs publishes a series of pamphlets in which he declares "man-male love" to be inborn. Supposedly it is the natural, healthy expression of a "female soul in a male body" - a condition he calls "Uranism". Those characterized by this condition he calls "Uranians". By means of this hypothesis, Ulrichs hopes to demonstrate the injustice of punishing sexual contact between men: Uranians do what they do because of what they are. No legislator, however, should punish people for what they are. Above all, Ulrichs wants to prevent the extension of the unreformed Prussian law against "unnatural vice" to all German states. This threatens to occur as a result of German unification under Prussian leadership. (In Bavaria, Württemberg and Hannover the old law had already been abolished.) Ulrichs, too, receives no support from Marx and Engels, who privately joke about him.
1865 In the city of Brno (today Czech Republic), the monk Gregor Mendel lays the foundation of modern genetics. His "Experiments in Plant Hybridization" describe the laws of heredity, but the true significance of Mendel's discoveries remains unrecognized by contemporary scientists.
1869 The Austrian-Hungarian writer Karoly Maria Kertbeny (orig. Benkert), in an anonymous pamphlet addressed to the Prussian Minister of Justice, coins the expression "homosexuality", meaning more or less the same as Ulrichs' "Uranism". The "Uranians" are now called "homosexuals" by Kertbeny. He, too, calls for law reform.

The Prussian Minister of Justice, who personally favors decriminalization, commissions the "Royal Prussian Medical Deputation" (members: a.o. Virchow, Housselle, Bardeleben) to issue an expert opinion on the justification of punishing same-sex behavior. The eminent scientists refuse to recognize this as a medical problem, and they also declare themselves incompetent in matters of morality. In any case, they find no justification for the law. Thus, they shift the responsibility away from science to politics. From now on, the legislature must rely on public disapproval of same-sex eroticism as the only justification for the law.

John Stuart Mill publishes "The Subjection of Women". The book argues for the legal and social equality of the sexes. His unacknowledged co-author is his wife Harriet.

1870 The Berlin psychiatrist Carl Westphal publishes the first medical case history of same-sex erotic attraction in his journal "Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten". It concerns a woman who feels attracted to the female students in her sister's boarding school. Westphal concludes that she suffers from a psychopathological condition for which he coins a new term: "contrary sexual feeling". The article prompts numerous other psychiatrists, including von Krafft-Ebing, to submit similar case histories of their own. Thus, within a very short time, the 'condition' of loving persons of the same sex comes to be viewed as a psychiatric illness.
The Italian physician and anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza publishes a three- volume work on sexual questions "Trilogia dell' amore" (Hygiene of Love; Physiology of Love; Anthropology of Love), which introduces a certain moral relativism with its many cross-cultural observations.
1873 The American moral crusader Anthony Comstock persuades the US congress to pass a strict new law against "obscenity". As a result, it becomes illegal even for physicians to inform their patients about contraception. Comstock himself is put in charge of enforcing the law and succeeds in having many physicians imprisoned. Thus, for many decades, contraception becomes a taboo subject in the United States.
1879 Albert Neisser discovers the gonoccocus (the bacterium causing gonorrhea).
1886 The Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing publishes his "Psychopathia sexualis", a collection of case histories documenting strange and unusual sexual practices. These are supposedly symptomatic of certain "sexual diseases of the mind". Among other things, he introduces the concepts of "sadism" (after the Marquis de Sade) and "masochism" (after the then still living Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch).
1892 The young American physician Clelia Mosher begins a survey among educated middle-class women concerning sexual attitudes and experiences. The results remain unpublished until 1980. They document an unexpected openness and sensuality of the women who answered the questionnaires.

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