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Clyde Martin, born January 2, 1918, is a sociological researcher best known for his work on the Kinsey Reports, the world-renowned studies on human sexuality. He coauthored Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) with Alfred Kinsey and Wardell Pomeroy and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) with Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Paul Gebhard. After Kinsey's death in 1956, Martin continued working at the Institute for Sex Research. He coauthored Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion (1958) with Pomeroy, Gebhard, and Cornelia Christenson.

In 1960, Martin resigned from the Institute for Sex Research to pursue his doctoral degree. He received his Ph.D. (in social relations) from Johns Hopkins University in 1966. From 1966 until 1989, he did research, specializing in gerontology and sociology at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Martin then published many studies, including "Factors Affecting Sexual Functioning in 60–79 Year Old Married Males" (1981) in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Clyde Martin retired in 1989.


Gebhard, P.R., W.B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, and C.V. Christenson. Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion. New York: Harper-Hoeber, 1958.

Kinsey, A.C., W.B. Pomeroy, and C.E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1948.

Kinsey, A.C., W.B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, and P.H. Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953.

Martin, C.E. Factors Affecting Sexual Functioning in 60–79 Year Old Married Males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 10 (1981), pp. 399–400.

Pomeroy, W.B. Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Signet, 1972.

Leah Cahan Schaefer


Masochism is the eroticization of submission. The term was first coined by the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who derived it from the name of the writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Masochism and the related phenomenon, sadism, have traditionally been considered as individual psychopathologies or paraphilias. Krafft-Ebing, for example, defined masochism as "a peculiar perversion of the psychical sexual life in which the individual affected, in sexual feeling and thought, is controlled by the idea of being completely and unconditionally subject to the will of a person of the opposite sex; of being treated by this person as by a master, humiliated and abused." Sigmund Freud also considered masochism to be a perversion and believed it to be "nothing but a continuation of sadism directed at one's own person in which the latter at first takes the place of the sexual object."

Masochism is not easily separable from sadism, since, as Freud pointed out, they are intricately interrelated. In fact, he noted that "the most striking peculiarity of this perversion lies in the fact that its active and passive forms are regularly encounterd together in the same person." Ellis also argued that the distinction made between sadism and masochism is artificial. He saw them as complementary, rather than as opposed, emotional states. These early writers were correct about the relationship between sadism and masochism, although Freud was in error when he stated that masochism is derived from sadism. In fact, there is evidence that the opposite is true; many sadists start out as masochists. Additionally, Spengler found that only a minority of his sample were exclusively sadistic or masochistic. He observed that people alternated between these roles, thereby maintaining flexibility with different partners.

Recent writers have begun to treat sadism and masochism as sociological phenomena, characterized in terms of an organized subculture or subcultures. Most contemporary research focuses on the social organization of sadomasochists and the acquisition of sadomasochistic identities, while other writers have begun to develop new theories on masochism and the self. Baumeister, for instance, utilizing self-awareness and action identification theories, has conceptualized masochism as "essentially an attempt to escape from self, in the sense of achieving a loss of high-level self-awareness." In essence, he sees masochism as temporarily replacing a sense of self as an abstract, symbolically constructed identity with a low-level awareness of self as a physical entity. Such an escape provides a kind of relief from concerns with autonomy, self-esteem needs, and external demands for responsibility, and it is therefore similar to other escapes, such as the use of drugs and alcohol and involvement in risk-taking activities.

Although a number of writers consider masochism to be synonymous with the receiving of pain for sexual gratification, this is an inaccurate understanding of this orientation. While many masochists do require painful stimulation, not all of them wish to feel even mild discomfort. What masochists desire is the feeling that they are completely under the control of another person. Pain is only one way to symbolize their submission. Some masochists wish, instead, to be verbally abused and insulted, walked upon, given enemas, "forced" to ingest urine or feces, or to be controlled in other ways. Kamel has correctly noted that it is fantasy, rather than whips or chains, that "masters" and "mistresses" use to control the behavior of their "slaves." The terms "dominance and submission" (D/S) or "bondage and discipline" (B/D) are generally preferred by participants to "sadism" and "masochism," which are equated with pain and perceived by them as an inaccurate description of both their identities and their behavior. Within the sadomasochistic community, masochists are referred to as "submissives" or "bottoms."

Califia claims that it is "the will to please (that) is a bottom's source of pleasure." Although it may appear that the sadist is controlling the masochist, in actuality sadomasochistic scenes are both consensual and collaboratively produced. Both partners agree on the limits of their interaction, so that both derive pleasure from their participation. Often code words, such as "yellow" (for slow down) or "red" (for stop) are used to indicate to one's partner that one is nearing one's discomfort limit. Frequently, sadomasochistic scenarios are scripted, so that individuals play designated roles during their interaction. Common fantasies include mistress-master and slave, employer and servant-maid, teacher and pupil, owner and horse or dog, and parent and child.

Sadomasochists often wear costumes of black leather or rubber, which symbolize their sadomasochistic role. There are, for example, slave harnesses and other restraints indicating to potential partners the individual's preferred role in the interaction. Among male homosexuals in the "leathersex" subculture, dominance or submission is signaled by wearing key chains or colored handkerchiefs. Usually, wearing keys on the left indicates that the individual is a top, and the right side signals that he is a bottom. The preference for a specific act is symbolized by the color of the handkerchief; color codes are generally agreed upon within the subculture.

While preference for a dominant or submissive role is not gender linked, in the United States males tend to take the passive role and wish to interact with dominant females. In fact, personal contact magazines, with tides such as Aggressive Gals and Amazon, have advertisements for partners predominantly from submissive men and dominant women, many of whom are prostitutes. Baumeister has noted differences between male and female masochists. In an analysis of letters to a sexually oriented magazine, he found that males desired more severe pain, more frequently wished to be humiliated, and were especially interested in degrading humiliations and those that involved status loss, partner infidelity, transvestism, and the active participation by persons other than their partners. Females, in contrast, wished more frequent pain, saw pain as punishment for actual behavior, were more likely to report or fantasize being displayed in a humiliating way, to describe sexual intercourse as part of the scenario, and to include nonparticipating spectators.

Masochists meet partners in a variety of ways, most commonly through responding to advertisements. Often, they are unable to find willing female partners and interact with prostitutes specializing in domination. Prior to the AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) epidemic, bars in which sadomasochists could find one another and engage in sadomasochistic scenes existed in the largest cities, such as New York and San Francisco. These places—such as Paddles and The Hellfire Club for heterosexuals and The Mineshaft, which catered to a homosexual clientele—were closed down either by departments of public health or voluntarily; they are essentially defunct. Sadomasochistic organizations, such as the Eulenspiegel and Janus Societies, which serve as informational forums and hold special events, still exist. Additionally, sadomasochists hold private parties, often with several dozen participants.


Baumeister, R.F. Gender/Differences in Masochistic Scripts. Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 25 (Nov. 1988), pp. 478–99.

Baumeister, R.F. Masochism as Escape from Self. Journal of Sex Research. Vol. 25 (Feb. 1988), pp. 28–59.

Califia, P. A Secret Side of Lesbian Sexuality. The Advocate, 17 Dec. 1979, pp. 19–23.

Ellis, H. Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Vol. 1, pt. 2. New York: Random House, 1942.

Freud, S. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. Edited and translated by A.A. Brill. New York: Modern Library, 1938.

Kamel, G.W.L. Leathersex: Meaningful Aspects of Gay Sadomasochism. Deviant Behavior An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 1 (1980), pp. 171-91.

Krafft-Ebing, R. von. Psychopathia Sexualis. (1886) Translated by F.S. Klaff. New York: Stein&Day, 1965.

Spengler, A. Manifest Sadomasochism of Males: Results of an Empirical Study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 6 (1977), pp. 441–56.

Weinberg, T.S. Sadomasochism in the United States: A Review of Recent Sociological Literature. Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 23 (Feb. 1987), pp. 50–69.

Weinberg, T.S., and G.W.L. Kamel, eds. S and M: Studies in Sadomasochism. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1983.

Thomas S. Weinberg


William Howell Masters (1915-2001) has been second only to Alfred Kinsey in his influence on American sexology in the last half of the 20th century. He and his collaborator, Virginia E. Johnson, became internationally known almost overnight with the publication, in April 1966, of Human Sexual Response. The book was the first to describe in detail how the human body responded to erotic stimulation during both masturbation and coitus. Responses of the penis, scrotum, and testes, the breasts, clitoris, labia, vagina, cervix, uterus, and other parts of the body were all presented and explained. Their experiments were made possible by new technical breakthroughs in photographic and recording equipment not available to their predecessors.

Second to Human Sexual Response in influence was Human Sexual Inadequacy, published in 1970. This work emphasized their difference with Kinsey, since, unlike Kinsey, they had an explicit therapeutic intent. Kinsey portrayed himself as a pure scientist whose sole concern was to establish the facts, while Masters and Johnson were clinicians first and scientists after. Though the Masters and Johnson style is often turgid and sometimes unclear, and, as has been pointed out by their critics, they claimed greater success in treatment than perhaps was warranted, they became the major figures in the exploding field of sex therapy in the 1960s and 1970s, and remain so at this time. They successfully challenged and undermined the predominant psychoanalytic approach to sexual dysfunction and in the process emphasized a behavioral approach.

Masters was born in Cleveland in 1915 to a well-to-do family. He attended Lawrenceville Preparatory School and then went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in 1938. He enrolled in medical school at the University of Rochester, where he came into contact with George Washington Comer, a major figure on the National Research Council's Committee for Research on Sex Problems. It was Corner who was instrumental in getting funding for Kinsey.

Masters worked with Comer on the estrous cycle in the female rabbit, and it was this experience that seemed to be influential in directing Masters into further research into human sexuality. Masters talked to Corner about the possibility and Corner gave him some often quoted advice: namely, that Masters should wait until he was at least 40 before tackling sex research, should first earn a reputation in some other scientific field, and should wait until he could secure the sponsorship of a major medical school or university. This was advice that Masters followed.

He married in 1942, received his M.D. degree in 1943, and from 1943 to 1947 was an intern and then a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Barnes Hospital and Maternity Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. After completing his residency, he became, successively, an instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor; a specialist certified by the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and the father of two children. He also published on a variety of obstetrical and gynecological subjects, although much of his research was concentrated on hormone-replacement therapy for aging women.

In 1954, Masters felt ready to begin a comprehensive study of the physiological responses involved in sexual activity, and he initiated a program within the framework of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University. As a preliminary step, he interviewed at length and in depth 118 female and 27 male prostitutes, and 11 of them, 8 women and 3 men, participated in a preliminary series of laboratory observations. Though he gained many insights from the prostitutes, he ultimately decided that he could not base his study on them, since many of them exhibited various degrees of pelvic pathology; this, coupled with the fact that they were often transient and undependable, led him to seek volunteers. In all, some 694 individuals, including 276 married couples, participated in the laboratory program Masters established. These individuals were not involved in the therapy programs and were a separate and distinct group.

Originally, Masters did much of the work by himself, but he felt a need to have a woman assist in research interviewing. Virginia Eschelman Johnson, who had applied to the Washington University Placement Bureau for a job following her separation from her husband, was chosen by Masters to join the project, and she increasingly took greater responsibility. In 1959, Masters, in conjunction with Virginia Johnson, launched a therapy program designed to help couples suffering from various sexual inadequacies. This area of the clinic grew in importance, and other therapists joined them. In 1964, the programs were placed under the auspices of the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation.

Masters divorced his first wife to marry Johnson in 1971. They divorced in 1992. As they aged, Virginia Johnson increasingly withdrew from taking an active part in the clinic, while Masters himself continued working. Eventually, he retired to Tucson, Arizona, where he died on February 16, 2001 at the age of 85.

Interestingly, as sex therapists Masters and Johnson put more emphasis on the social-psychological factors of anorgasmia and impotence than on the physical. Generally also, Masters and Johnson have approached the study of sexuality from the point of view of a heterosexual couple. In large part, they felt that the struggle for sexual happiness was essentially a struggle for the mind. This presupposition has been a source of major criticism in recent years. Others have criticized the ambiguity inherent in some of their description of the phases of the sexual response cycle. Still others have criticized their claimed success rate. It may well be, however, that the poorer success rate reported by other therapists is due to the fact that the greater availability of information led to a decline in the number of people who sought therapy for relatively simple problems, leaving more complex problems requiring more intensive treatment. Certainly, the optimism that prevailed at the beginning of the Masters and Johnson era has disappeared.

In spite of various criticisms and various emendations to their classification schemes, their basic findings on the physiology of the sexual response remain intact. Some of their therapeutic techniques, such as the squeeze technique, also remain widely practiced, and, in spite of criticism, much of what they said and did is still at the heart of today's sex therapy.




Masters, W.H., and V.E. Johnson. Human Sexual Inadequacy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

Masters, W.H., and V.E. Johnson. Human Sexual Response. Boston: Little, Brown, 1966.


Brecher, E.M. The Sex Researchers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1969.

Kaplan, H.S. The New Sex Therapy: Active Treatment of Sexual Dysfunctions. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1981.

Maier, Th., The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, illustrated. 411 pp. Basic Books 2009.

Robinson, P. The Modernization of Sex. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.


Vern L. Bullough (updated by Erwin J. Haeberle 2011)


Masturbation presents some of the same problems as pornography; we cannot define it, but we know what it is when we do it. The derivation of the word is usually given as "to pollute with the hand" or "to arouse the genitals," but many other parts of the body, as well as inanimate objects, can be used to pollute or arouse. In a narrow sense, masturbation is defined as playing with (directly stimulating) one's own genitals for the purpose of sexual self-pleasuring. In a more expanded definition, it may involve parts of the body other than the genitals (e.g., any erogenous area such as the mouth, tongue, anus, breast, or ear) and include participation with people in pairs or groups (which might be called mutual masturbation), although the latter activity may require an additional element of interaction and often involves the pleasuring of others. The word does not predict outcome; that is, it refers only to the pleasuring that may or may not lead to orgasm or ejaculation. The word sometimes used to describe this expanded definition is "autoeroticism," but even here the prefix"auto-" is not always appropriate. It may also involve elements of frotteurism. The practice has also been called, incorrectly, onanism. The "sin of Onan" occurred when Onan withdrew his penis before he ejaculated into the vagina of his sister-in-law, and thus he spilled his "seed" upon the ground. Therefore, onanism actually refers to coitus interruptus, not masturbation. Masturbation is not genital intercourse, although it may enter into the sexual experience during either foreplay or afterglow. Given all the various interpretations, one can agree with Freud when he said that "the subject of masturbation is quite inexhaustible."

Statistics concerning the number of people who engage in the activity are suspect, regardless of how one defines the term. However, there seems to be general agreement that masturbation is the most common type of sexual activity. This is probably because one can do it alone without the stress of having to satisfy someone else's needs, one does not have to be attractive and thus fear rejection, and one can be in complete control of the experience. Some workers have said that everyone masturbates; others have given particular statistics that indicate that 96 percent of men and 63 percent of women have masturbated sometime in their lives. The numbers for women have increased, according to later studies. The truth probably lies somewhere between. It has been said that 97 percent of men masturbate and the other 3 percent are liars. In any event, masturbation is the norm; lack of masturbation is the unusual.

Likewise, the statistics concerning the frequency of masturbation by an individual are also suspect. Infants have been noted to derive pleasure from rubbing their genitals; indeed, in some cultures, infants have been gentry masturbated by their mothers or nurses to calm them so that they can sleep. Some workers have reported the activity by infants in utero. Children, as soon as they discover their genitals, often masturbate regularly. The frequency may increase during times of boredom, such as when sitting in the seat of a supermarket cart while their parents are shopping. The child finds that stroking the genitals is a pleasurable way of passing the time, often to the consternation of the parents. Frequency increases greatly when the child reaches puberty, often to several times a day. It is at this time that a male can begin to ejaculate, a process greatly to be desired. It has often been postulated that masturbatory frequency is greatly reduced or stopped when the individual gets married, but that may not be the case. Many members of married couples find that they still wish to masturbate alone, or they often begin to incorporate the practice into their intercourse. The practice continues into old age, the frequency varying with health, religious, and personal considerations such as divorce or the death of a spouse.

Although most males desire to ejaculate as the result of masturbation, they vary in their methods of reaching that goal. Most males focus on the penis but may include the anus, perineum, scrotum, nipples, or other body parts in their activities. A man may prefer a particular method of masturbation because of the pleasure that it affords him. Thus, he may stimulate the head, corona, or shaft of his penis by placing his fingers in specific positions and stroking, rubbing, squeezing, or pinching the organ. He may roll his penis between his palms, rub it against his stomach, or rub it against inanimate objects such as pillows, sheets, washcloths, or clothing. He may flip the erect organ up and down against his belly or to the right and left. He may use only one hand or alternate between his two hands. He may use only the fluid produced by the Cowper's glands (precome) as a lubricant, or he may use oils, lotions, jellies, saliva, soap, and ointments to prevent painful friction.

The man may grasp the entire shaft in his fist and move the outer skin up and down, or he may use only one or two fingers to stimulate certain areas that give him pleasure. He may use a light or a strong grip. The frenulum, an area supplied with a large number of nerve endings, may serve as a focus for stimulation for both circumcised and uncircumcised males. If the penis is uncircumcised, the foreskin may be pulled forward and used in pleasurable stimulation. The man can become so accustomed to one method of masturbation that he will ask a sex partner to use that method when he is being masturbated by the partner.

The male may use a variety of aids during masturbation. The aids may be naturally occurring objects such as the cardboard core of a roll of toilet tissue, milk bottles, cored apples, liver, and cantaloupes into which the penis is inserted, or toys that have been manufactured for that purpose. These include artificial vaginas and inflatable dolls with receptive mouths and anuses. Anal penetration using dildos, sometimes coupled with vibrators on the nipples and other parts of the body, are often part of the masturbatory sequence.

The masturbatory play may be very rapid; some men have reported ejaculation within 30 seconds of start. The usual time is two or three minutes, but some men reach a point just before ejaculation is inevitable and reduce the stimulation to prolong the pleasure for a much longer period. Although the stroking movements may start slowly, they usually speed up as the man approaches ejaculation; most men stop all movements and simply hold their penis during ejaculation. After ejaculation, most men abruptly stop stimulation because the feelings become so intense that they are painful.

Women commonly masturbate by rubbing or applying pressure to the clitoris, mons, lips of the vagina, or some combination of these areas. The methods by which they do this varies greatly. Fingers or other devices may be used to rub the shaft of the clitoris in an up-and-down motion on either or both sides, or the shaft may be rubbed in a circular fashion. The vaginal lips may be gently pulled; this movement of the inner lips causes the loose skin covering the clitoris to move back and forth, creating a pleasurable sensation. Because the glans of the clitoris is highly sensitive, prolonged stimulation usually becomes irritating, and thus it is not often used as the focus of masturbation.

Relatively few women (some workers estimate about 20 percent) insert anything into their vaginas while masturbating. Those who do usually insert just barely into the opening. However, some women completely insert fingers, dildos, vibrators, and other objects, such as bananas and cucumbers, during masturbation. Hairpins and other small objects have had to be surgically removed from the uterus where they have been deposited as the result of spasms caused by orgasm from masturbation in which the items were inserted into the vagina as a masturbatory aid. The practice of inserting small hollow or solid balls into the vagina probably originated in Japan. These objects, called rin-no-tama or ben-wa balls, are held in place by a tampon and may be used singly or in pairs. One of the hollow balls may contain a small solid ball of mercury that causes it to move with the movement of the woman. The vibrations of the balls cause pleasurable sensations.

All these methods may involve the use of various kinds of lubricants, and many women stimulate their breasts while stimulating their genitals. Some women use washcloths, clothing, pillows, furs, silks, or other such devices to aid their stimulation. Most women prefer lying on their backs, but some prefer standing or sitting.

While standing or sitting, a woman may rub against certain objects, such as doorknobs, dresser drawer pulls, the edge of chairs, or bedposts. The woman may cross her legs and increase the pressure on her genitals by contracting her lower abdominal, gluteal, and thigh muscles. Water massages may be used. Some women derive sexual stimulation while riding a bicycle or a horse, activities that were at one time forbidden to women for that very reason. However, the pumping of a sewing machine treadle, an activity that was not forbidden, can also produce sexual pleasure.

Female sexual response to masturbation is about the same as for males. Some women have reported orgasm 30 seconds from the start of self-stimulation, while the usual time is a little less than four minutes. Because of a woman's ability to have multiple orgasms, she may maintain her threshold of orgasm far longer than a man.

All the above activities can be performed alone, with one partner, or with multiple partners in group situations. They may be performed by homosexuals or heterosexuals; the two orientations' physiological response to the stimulation appears to be the same, although the psychological response is quite different. These practices may also be part of other sexual activities, such as transvestism, fetishism, sado-masochism, and zoophilia. For example, a male transvestite may use an article of women's clothing to stroke his penis while masturbating; a sock fetishist may use a sock for the same purpose.

Fantasy plays a very important role in masturbatory activities. Because of this, it has been said that if masturbation did not exist, we would have to invent it. Even the older literature, often prejudicial against masturbation, recognizes that this solitary "vice" can be credited with preventing crimes, perversions, and serious mental breakdowns. Thus, during masturbation an individual can fantasize activities that he or she would never perform in real life. For example, an individual can harmlessly coerce another person into a sexual situation in a masturbatory fantasy and relieve the stress brought on by the desire. If the coercion were actually carried out, a great deal of harm would be inflicted on the people involved. Only if the fantasy becomes so demanding that the individual actually performs it does it become harmful. Masturbatory fantasy enables one to escape socially imposed sex roles and allows individuals to perform sexually in ways they never would in real life. Thus, an individual may imagine sex with people otherwise unavailable: a heterosexual male can have fantasy sex with men whom he admires, and a homosexual male can likewise have sex with women. In their fantasies, people can participate in orgies, incest, and anal stimulation and penetration, as well as relieve unpleasant notions and experiences. It has been shown that some lesbians may feel their clitoris grows to become a penis, enabling them to penetrate their partner; gay men can believe their hand belongs to another person whom they desire. Gay men may focus on the penis during the fantasy, all other considerations becoming irrelevant.

In addition to helping to build a healthy fantasy life, there are many other positive aspects to masturbation. The practice has been used to calm infants. It helps to relieve frustration by allowing an individual to temporarily escape a challenging world and become self-contained. It can allow a person to relieve sexual tension without having to be concerned with responsibility for the feelings of a partner. Among adolescents, it can relieve sexual tensions at a time of great sexual uncertainty and may actually prevent unwanted pregnancies. Since the masturbator is in control of the fantasies and feelings, he or she can perform whether or not illness, physical disability, age, marital status, and feelings of physical unattractiveness intervene. Masturbation can enhance self-awareness and, indeed, has been credited with helping people to learn about their own sexuality and thus improve their sensitivity toward their sexual partners. In this context, it becomes a positive maturing activity. When employed during intercourse, it may greatly enhance sexual response; some women report that they receive more intense pleasure from masturbation either by themselves or by their partner than they do from coitus, especially if their partner is a male who has only slight potency. This is because the clitoris receives little direct stimulation during pelvic thrusting in the "missionary position."

Religions have sometimes incorporated masturbation into their myths. In one Indian myth, Lord Shiva was masturbated, and when his semen was accidentally dropped into the Ganges, the misogynist war-god Kartikeh was born. In one Egyptian myth, the god Ptah and a group of gods related to him came into being from the semen masturbated from the god Atum. In another account, Atum masturbated and produced a son and a daughter. In some religious sects, ritual masturbation is one means of effecting mystical union with the deity.

Although attitudes toward masturbation varied greatly among ancient peoples, it was generally accepted that the practice was at least sometimes necessary, and, in certain cultures, it was encouraged. Other cultures had proscriptions against it, but the extreme negative view of masturbation probably evolved because the practice by itself is nonprocreative and solitary. This view is especially prevalent in early Judeo-Christian thought, when it was believed that the only reason for sexual intercourse was procreation and anything that interfered with that function was immoral. Jewish tradition said that man must not waste his seed. The practice is also pleasurable, and that was seen as another reason for its condemnation. Religious bigotry found medical support in the work of S.A.D. Tissot (1728-1787), who published his influential Onania, or a Treatise upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation in 1758. Tissot observed that the body became flushed during and after sexual intercourse, a response which we now know is a result of increased peripheral circulation. Given his religious views, he reasoned that all sex was potentially dangerous because it caused the blood to rush to the head and thus starved the nerves, leaving the person vulnerable to insanity. He recognized that some sex was necessary for reproduction but taught that solitary sex was far more dangerous because it would inevitably lead to excessive ejaculation. He also thought the masturbator was in greater danger because the masturbator realized he was committing a sin and thus was placing his nervous system in an even more precarious situation.

Because of his respectability as a physician, Tissot's views were widely accepted, although some physicians at the time pointed out that he was using his medical practice to further his private moral convictions. His views spread throughout Europe and were eventually embraced in the United States by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an influential figure in medicine. The views of Tissot and Rush initiated what has been called the "age of masturbatory insanity." Because ejaculation in the male produced feelings of relaxation and general lassitude, it became widely accepted in medical circles that semen was a precious fluid that should be used only when there was a chance of conception occurring. Otherwise, there was no disease of the body or mind that could not be attributed to masturbation. Disasters could occur: the brain would dry up and rattle in the masturbator's head like peas in a pod, the penis and testicles would dry up and fall off, and young girls would cause their own death and the death of others by the practice because of the sin involved. Insanity, syphilis, blindness, deafness, cancer, afflictions of the female reproductive organs, nosebleeds, heart murmurs, sterility, acne, undesirable odors of the skin, epilepsy, headaches, infantile paralysis, infantile rheumatism, pederasty, and homosexuality were only a few of the conditions thought to be caused by masturbation.

The list of activities thought to encourage or cause masturbation is almost as long as the list of effects. They include lack of cleanliness, presence of the prepuce and lips of the vagina, nervousness, prolonged sitting or standing, sitting cross-legged, spanking, petting, corsets, straining of the memory, erotic reading or reading of novels, play, pictures, perfumes, solitude, fondling, rocking chairs, pockets, feather beds, horseback riding, and bicycling.

Of course, there had to be a list of symptoms by which the masturbator could be recognized. These included an enormously enlarged penis, a downcast and averted glance, loss of memory and intelligence, a morose and unequal disposition, aversion or indifference to legitimate pleasures and sports, pursuit of solitude, and the acquisition of a dull, silly, listless, embarrassed, sad, and effeminate exterior.

Because of the dire consequences of masturbation, extreme measures were thought necessary to cure it. Indiana and Wyoming passed statutes making it a crime to encourage a person to masturbate. Women were forbidden to ride astride a horse or on a bicycle. Widows and older unmarried women were forbidden to own a dog or a male slave for fear that they would use them during masturbation. Even into the 1950s, bananas served in women's dormitories in colleges were cut up so the women could not use them. In some cultures, males were forbidden to hold their penis when they urinated unless they were married and their wives were available if they became excited. Other preventions included the wearing of antimasturbatory belts that prevented the wearer from touching his or her genitals. Patents were issued for devices that would enclose the penis in such a way that if an erection occurred, the penis would push against pins or grippers, causing pain. Girls were tied into their beds in ways that would not allow them to touch their genitals or to slide up and down on the linens. More radical methods included castration and cauterization of the spine and the genitals. The prepuce of uncircumcised boys was pulled across the glans penis and sewn into place, leaving only a small hole for the passing of urine. In the United States, some girls had clitoridectomies performed on them, a practice that continued until about 1886, and both sexes were subjected to blistering of the thighs and genitals. One physician regularly prescribed the application of a white-hot iron to the clitoris.

Circumcision was recommended for both the male and female masturbator. In the United States, female circumcision is now rarely done, but it is still routinely performed on male infants. The practice has its origins in the attempt to prevent masturbation among males, although other reasons are sometimes given. The process was certainly not successful, because in the Middle Eastern countries where the operation is commonly performed after the boy begins to walk or later, the frequency of masturbation tends to increase as the boy attempts to assure himself that nothing of importance has been lost. The incidence of the practice has not declined in the United States. A very radical circumcision was sometimes performed in which the entire outer skin of the penis was removed with the prepuce.

Although there is not one shred of evidence that masturbation is harmful, superstitions and prohibitions against the practice still abound. These were reinforced by two new translations of Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis that were published in the United States in 1965. Krafft-Ebing indicates that masturbation during the early years contaminates the masturbator and removes the source of all noble and ideal sentiment. It removes feelings toward the opposite sex and induces neuroses of the sexual apparatus. Thus, we still have parents, teachers, physicians, and Sunday school teachers who warn against the harm of "self-abuse," especially if practiced to "excess." No one has ever defined what is meant by "excess," but most modern men would agree that it is "just a little more than I practice." The only harm that can result from masturbation is if the individual is plagued with feelings of guilt that cause him or her to be uncomfortable with the practice.

Not all writers of the 19th century were so narrow in their thinking about masturbation. Mark Twain delivered a short address extolling its virtues at a private club in Paris in 1879:

Homer in the second book of the Iliad, says with fine enthusiasm, "Give me masturbation or give me death!" Caesar, in his Commentaries, says, "To the lonely it is company; to the forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and to the impotent it is a benefactor; they that are penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion." In another place this experienced observer has said, "There are times when I prefer it to sodomy." Robinson Crusoe says, "I cannot describe what I owe to this gentle art." Queen Elizabeth said, "It is the bulwark of Virginity." Cetewayo, the Zulu hero, remarked, "A jerk in the hand is worth two in the bush." The immortal Franklin has said, "Masturbation is the mother of invention." He also said, "Masturbation is the best policy." Michelangelo and all the other old masters—Old Masters, I will remark, is an abbreviation, a contraction—have used similar language. Michelangelo said to Pope Julius II, "Self-negation is noble, self-culture is beneficial, self-possession is manly, but to the truly grand and inspiring soul they are poor and tame compared to self-abuse."
The world would be a better place if Twain's healthy attitude had prevailed much earlier.


Allgeier, E.R., and A.R. Allgeier. Sexual Interactions. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1991.

Bullough, V.L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976.

Bullough, V.L., and B. Bullough. Sin, Sickness, and Sanity: A History of Sexual Attitudes. New York: Garland, 1977.

Katchadourian, H.A. Fundamentals of Human Sexuality. 5th ed. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1989.

Masters, R.E.L., ed. Sexual Self-Stimulation. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1967.

Masters, W.H., V.E. Johnson, and R.C. Kolodny. Human Sexuality. 3d ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1988.

Reinisch, J.M. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Walker, M. Men Loving Men: A Gay Sex Guide and Consciousness Book. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1977.

James D. Haynes


That masturbation caused insanity was a belief based on the writings of the 18th-century Swiss physician S.A.D. Tissot (1728–1797), who taught that physical bodies suffered a continual waste, and unless this wastage was periodically restored, death would result. Though much of this loss could be restored through adequate nutrition, it was also important to attempt to control the wastage itself. The most debilitating form of wastage was human semen and its female equivalent. It was recognized that semen was essential for procreation, but its waste through other forms of nonprocreative sexual activity had to be controlled. Masturbation was a particularly harmful form of waste and could lead to madness, decay of bodily powers, and numerous other ailments.

Tissot wrote before it was recognized that many of the symptoms he attributed to masturbation were actually due to third-stage syphilis. Tissot claimed that the symptoms were due to an action instead of a disease, and others picked up on his argument, especially in the United States. In the 19th century, a host of "reformers"—ranging from Sylvester Graham, an advocate of unbolted wheat, or graham flour, whose name is commemorated in the graham cracker, to John Harvey Kellogg, who developed cornflakes—widely publicized the dangers of nonprocreative sex. Kellogg, in his book dealing with the topic, provided a two-page listing of the ill effects of masturbation in young people, a list that describes almost everything that American adolescents suffered from or did, ranging from acne to the use of profanity.

One result of such agitation was the development of a number of devices to prevent young people from masturbating, including mittens to be worn to bed and various forms of belts and guards to prevent them from touching themselves (some of which are discussed under Chastity Girdles). A major result of the belief in masturbatory insanity was the widespread growth of male circumcision in the United States. Circumcision, it was claimed, prevented males from having to pull back the foreskin of their penis when they urinated. Since it was believed that this touching of the foreskin provided a pleasurable experience, it was this that led so many boys to masturbate.

The hysteria over masturbation began to die down in the 20th century largely through the identification of the sequelae of third-stage syphilis, but the dangers of masturbation were still widely publicized as late as the 1940s.


Bullough, V.L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976.

Money, J. The Destroying Angel. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1985.

Wallerstein, E. Circumcision: An American Fallacy. New York: Springer, 1980.

Vern L. Bullough


On what bases, and through what processes, do people select a marriage partner? Historically and across cultures, these have generally been more salient issues for parents than for young men and women. That is, marriages were arranged between kin groups, often to gain status or to form an economic or social alliance with another family, and the opinions of the bride and groom were of relatively little concern. By the time of the Victorian era, rationalism was the primary influence in the marriage market. The reasons for marriage were procreation and the rearing of children within a congenial home. This goal could best be achieved if husband and wife were of the same socioeconomic background and adhered to their respective institutionalized roles of provider and homemaker. Some people may be quite surprised to learn that love and emotional satisfaction are very recent influences in marital choices, particularly by women. In fact, research shows that the vast majority of contemporary Americans may not even consider marrying someone whom they do not love.

In 1967, Kephart asked more than 1,000 college student respondents if they would marry a person who had all the qualities they desired in a potential mate if they were not in love with that person. Although the majority (65 percent) of men said no, thus suggesting that love was a prerequisite for marriage, only 24 percent of the women said no, indicating that for the majority of women at that time, love was not necessary for marriage. Reasoning that these figures may have changed with the increase in women's independence in the decades since Kephart collected his data, Simpson, Campbell, and Bersheid carried out research, in 1976 and in 1984, on the importance of love to men and women in selecting a marital partner. In support of the idea that with women's increasing economic and social independence fewer women would settle for a marital partner whom they did not love, Simpson, et al., found that by 1976, 80 percent of the women in their sample indicated that they would not marry a man whom they did not love, and this figure rose to 85 percent by 1984.

Men's unwillingness to marry someone they did not love also rose, but far less dramatically: 86 percent of the men sampled in both 1976 and 1984 reported that they would not marry someone they did not love. Allgeier and Widerman asked the Kephart question of nearly 1,000 college students in 1990, and 91 percent of the women and 87 percent of the men indicated that they would not marry someone whom they did not love. Among a sample of more mature adults from the general community, 81 percent of both men and women responded that they would not marry someone they did not love. In general, this association between love and marriage appears to be quite pervasive among contemporary Americans.

Beyond love, what criteria are most important in people's selection of spouses? Contrary to the romantic belief that love transcends any barrier, many practical issues seem to influence marriage choices. For example, proximity has consistently been found to relate to mate selection; that is, we are more likely to choose a mate from those within our immediate surroundings. As Buss noted, "Conceptions of romantic love aside, the 'one and only' typically lives within driving distance." Other considerations, such as premarital pregnancy, may result in matrimonial pairings that would not otherwise have taken place. In contemporary Western societies, there is also much room for assortive mating; the non-random pairing of individuals based on similarity with regard to one or more characteristics. Researchers have considered the actual assortiveness of a wide variety of such qualities. In general, studies have demonstrated that basic demographic variables such as age, ethnic background, religion, and education are most highly assortive, whereas spousal similarity in attitudes and opinions are somewhat less associated with marriage.

Many studies have been done asking for people's preferences regarding qualities in a potential mate. Most of these studies have been similar to that conducted by Hill, who constructed a list of 18 characteristics in a potential mate and asked a large sample of college students to rate how important each quality was in their choice of a spouse. In studies employing this methodology, descriptors such as "kind and understanding," "good companion," "mutual attraction," and "dependable character" characterize what both men and women say they prefer most in a mate. Of course, everyone would like to marry someone who possessed the traits of attractiveness, kindness, dependability, intelligence, and so forth, but is it realistic to assume that because most people express a preference for these qualities, they do indeed marry someone who has them? Despite reporting that they look for mates who possess these positive attributes, the majority of people may have to settle for the closest match to their ideal that they encounter during the period when they are most prepared to marry.

A couple of studies have investigated the degree to which people do actually attain their preferences when it comes to a spouse, as well as the degree to which spouses are similar in the relative value placed on particular characteristics. Among nearly 100 married couples. Buss and Barnes found that spouses' ratings of the importance of such qualities as religiousness, liking children, political conservativism, being socially exciting, artisticness and intelligence were moderately correlated (0.36–0.65), suggesting that spouses are similar in the importance they place on some fundamental dispositions. Buss and Barnes also correlated each spouse's preferences for a variety of personality characteristics with their partner's actual score on measures of those characteristics. Most of the correlations were significant but rather small (around 0.25). In a study of more than 6,000 married or cohabiting couples, Howard, Blumstein, and Schwartz also found significant but modest correlations between peoples' preferences regarding a mate and the partners' self-ratings on those dimensions, the average correlations being around 0.20. These latter researchers went a step further by correlating men's and women's preferences for a mate with their ratings of their partners with regard to the desired qualities. These correlations were larger than those between preferences and partners' self-ratings on the various dimensions, but were still quite modest (0.09—0.44). In general, there appears to be some relationship between what we say we are looking for in a mate and the characteristics of the person whom we marry, but the correspondence is far from perfect.

The list of 18 characteristics in a potential mate developed by Hill has been administered to large samples of college students at several points over the last 50 years, allowing for analyses of trends over a span of three generations. Wiederman's and Allgeier's work on the topic has revealed that men and women may now be more similar in the relative value they place on the listed mate characteristics than they were over the past two generations. Compared to past generations, young women now place more emphasis on the physical attractiveness of a potential mate. Also, compared to past generations, men now rate the items good cook-housekeeper, refinement-neatness, and desire for home and children as less important in a potential spouse. It appears that contemporary men may be putting less emphasis on those characteristics in a mate that stereotypically defined a housewife, whereas women are placing more value on the physical attractiveness of a potential husband.

Despite a high degree of similarity in the relative value placed on most characteristics in a potential mate, research has consistently demonstrated that men and women differ in their ratings of particular selection criteria. Specifically, research employing various methodologies with a variety of samples has shown that men place significantly more importance on the physical attractiveness of a potential partner, whereas women place more emphasis on the ability of a mate to provide material support. With regard to actual mate choice, successful career men are more likely to be married to physically attractive women. These gender differences in mate selection criteria have been found to hold cross-culturally. Buss collected data from 37 samples and more than 10,000 people from Africa, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and the United States and consistently found that men preferred "good looks" in a mate more than did women, whereas women preferred "good financial prospects" in a potential mate more than did men. Evolutionary theory has been used to explain these robust gender differences in mate selection criteria.

Those taking an evolutionary perspective have argued that gender differences in human mate selection criteria exist as a result of natural selection. The anthropologist Donald Symons proposed that individuals using criteria that resulted in the enhancement of their ability to pass on their genes to the next generation, at least for a period lengthy enough for the next generation to reproduce successfully, would be more likely to have their characteristics—including the criteria they use for mate selection—passed on. Note that this is neither a teleological (doing something for the sake of) model nor a deterministic one. That is, Symons did not suggest that humans (during the period when our species was evolving) consciously sought partners who would increase their likelihood of reproductive success. Rather, he suggested that those men and women who happened to use criteria that ultimately resulted in reproductive success were more likely to have their genes passed on than those who did not. On the issue of determinism, the evolutionary approach does not propose that all men and women are inevitably forced at the genetic level to behave in particular ways or, in this instance, to value specific characteristics in a potential mate over others. Instead, this approach argues from a probabilistic standpoint. Specifically, as represented by Symons's hypotheses, during our evolutionary history, those males whose mate selection criteria included physical attractiveness of women (which also happens to correlate with women's physical and reproductive health) were more likely to have the offspring they helped to conceive survive pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and go on to reproduce than were those men who selected less physically attractive women (i.e., women who were older or less likely to be healthy and strong enough to carry a fetus to term and raise it to reproductive maturity). In contrast, he suggested that women who selected mates on the basis of the potential mate's ability to provide protection and resources to the woman and her offspring would be more likely to have her genes passed on to subsequent generations.

An alternative explanation for the robust gender differences, demonstrated in research on self-reported mate selection criteria, is the structural-powerlessness hypothesis, which suggests that males and females have the same mate selection preferences, but social structural arrangements produce gender differences. It has been hypothesized that men's relative preference for physical attractiveness, and women's relative preference for a mate with economic resources, may be byproducts of the culturally determined differential economic status of men versus women. If women are typically excluded from power and are viewed as objects of exchange, then women may seek mates possessing characteristics associated with power and resource-acquisition skills (e.g., earning capacity). According to Buss and Barnes, marriage is, therefore, a means by which women may improve their economic status. Men, in contrast, may place a premium on the quality of the "exchange object" itself, and so value physical beauty (e.g., enhanced value as a sex object). Physical attractiveness then becomes a central means for designating relative value among exchange commodities. Wiederman and Allgeier conducted a study to test this explanation for the described gender differences in mate selection criteria. Contrary to the structural-powerlessness hypothesis, in samples of both college students and community members women's expected personal income was unrelated to the value placed on the earning ability of a potential husband. In general, women appear to place relatively more emphasis on the earning potential of a mate than do men, and this is true even among women who are financially independent.

A number of other models of mate selection processes have been proposed. One of the earliest is based on psychoanalytic theory. Reminiscent of the old song "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad," proponents of psychoanalytic theory, with its attendant Oedipal and Electra complexes, have proposed that in seeking a mate, young people are influenced by the characteristics of their parent of the other gender. It is generally expected by advocates of this model that there is a positive relationship between the other-gender parent's physical and psychological characteristics and the characteristics of other-gender peers to whom the mate-seeking person is attracted. Attempts have been made to measure the resemblance between the spousal choice and the physical and psychological characteristics of the other-gender parent, but the results have either failed to support psychoanalytic theory or were highly equivocal. A more precise test of psychoanalytic theory would involve investigation of whether the influence of parental characteristics on mate selection is greater for those individuals who have not resolved their Oedipal complex. Unfortunately, resolution of such conflicts has not been operationalized by proponents of psychoanalytic theory, making the model difficult to test.

Another early and influential model was proposed by the sociologist Robert Winch and was based on the notion of complementary needs. Two needs are complementary "when A's need X is gratifying to B's need Y, and B's behavior in acting out B's need Y is gratifying to A's need X." A's and B's needs may be of the same or a different type. If the need is the same, then Winch hypothesized that each member of the couple should differ in the intensity of that need. For example, if A is very high on the dimension of dominance and B is very low, then the needs are complementary. Winch called this Type I complementarity. If different needs are gratified in A and B, the relationship between the partners is hypothesized to be positive or negative depending on the particular pair of needs under consideration. For example, if A has a high need for nurturance, A should select a spouse B who has a high need for succorance. Winch referred to this situation involving two different needs as Type 2 complementarity. Although Winch's theory is intuitively appealing, attempts to validate the model with data from actual couples have been generally unsuccessful. A review and critique of the literature on Winch's complementary-needs theory of mate selection is provided by Murstein. Modified versions of complementary-needs theory have been put forth by others, but empirical support for such theories has been lacking.

Filter theories of mate selection take into account the developmental nature of intimate relationships. The first was offered by Kerckhoff and Davis, who hypothesized that after an initial screening for similarity with regard to basic cultural variables, a further screening takes place on the basis of values and, finally, need compatibility. It was proposed that couples who remain together after this successive filtering process end up marrying. Murstein constructed a more elaborate filter theory of the development of relationships, which he called stimulus-value-role (SVR) theory. Murstein hypothesized that the kinds of variables that can influence the course of development of a relationship fit into three categories: stimulus, value comparison, and role. These variables are operative throughout the course of the relationship but are hypothesized to be maximally influential at different stages of the courtship process.

The stimulus stage of courtship refers to the initial meeting and initial exchange between two people, perhaps at a dance or local meeting place for young people. During this period, the stimulus value of each person to the other is most salient in determining whether or not the courtship process will continue. Obviously, physical attractiveness is the one characteristic most readily selected for at this stage. That is not to say that everyone necessarily attempts to meet the most attractive person at any particular social gathering designed for the potential meeting of a mate. It is likely that the more experienced daters are familiar with rejection and temper their choices on the basis of their own self-perceived attractiveness.

If a couple is approximately equal in their stimulus value to each other, they may progress to the second stage of mate selection: value comparison. This period is characterized by verbal interactions and the gathering of information regarding each other. Each partner gleans information regarding the other's religious orientation; attitudes towards parents, friends, and people in general; interests; talents; and so forth. Each partner also evaluates his or her comfort with the other and the effect each partner's disclosure has on the other. If a couple survives these first two stages of courtship, they may evaluate their relationship quite positively and even decide to marry at this point. However, for most people, it is important to determine if the couple is able to function in compatible roles. The role stage, according to Murstein, "is the evaluation of perceived functioning of oneself in a dyadic relationship in comparison with the role one envisages for oneself and the perceived role functioning of the partner with respect to the roles one has envisaged for him or her." There has been research supporting the exchange nature of the SVR model of mate selection, but whether or not relationships leading to marriage follow the hypothesized sequence has yet to be tested.

Despite decades of research and the proposal of a number of theories, there are several aspects of mate selection that have been relatively neglected by researchers. For example, ethnic minorities have rarely been the focus of mate selection research, and the same is true of sexual minorities (homosexuals, bisexuals). The limited research on homosexual's mate selection has found few differences from heterosexuals in what is valued in relationships, but research on many aspects of mate selection among homosexuals remains to be done. As divorce and remarriage are fairly common in Western society, the issue of mate selection the second (or third) time around becomes a salient one. Do people choose partners similar to their prior mate? How is the process of mate selection different after having been married before? Unfortunately, these are questions that remain unanswered. Related to the situation of divorce and remarriage is the issue of relationship satisfaction. Does mate selection based on one set of criteria, or accomplished through one type of process, result in a more satisfying union than selection based on other criteria or other processes? Howard, et. al., found that preference for a physically attractive mate was negatively associated with men's and women's satisfaction with their current relationship, whereas preference for an affectionate, romantic, and expressive partner was positively related to relationship satisfaction. These correlations, however, were quite small (0.05–0.17), and, in general, little more is known regarding links between mate selection and subsequent relationship or marital satisfaction.

It is apparent that many of the details of mate selection criteria and processes remain to be discovered, and we have only a rudimentary understanding of the nature of the phenomena involved. Each model that has been proposed to explain mate selection has been criticized by other investigators, and even the best models offered to date have not been very effective in accurately capturing the nature of the process as it applies to large percentages of people. This fact has led some researchers to suggest that no one model of mate selection will be complete enough to explain all, or even most, couplings and that future investigation should focus on variability in the nature of relationship development. The process by which two people end up in a relatively enduring relationship together is probably a complex combination of cognitive, affective, interpersonal, situational, and other factors. For example, some people may arrive at the point in their lives where marriage is appropriate (or expected) and then search their field of eligibles for the "best" available partner based on a rationally generated "shopping list" of criteria. Others may not be seeking a long-term relationship but inexplicably find themselves involved with, and attached to, someone. Still others may start a relationship for reasons other than mate selection and then, after having invested heavily in the relationship, believe that marriage is the "natural" next step. Regardless of the particular process by which any two individuals come together to form a relationship, research on the topic has a long way to go in explaining this phenomenon in which the vast majority of people participate.


Allgeier, E.R., and M.W. Wiederman. Love and Mate Selection in the 1990s. Free Inquiry, Vol. 11 (1991): pp. 25-27.

Buss, D.M. Sex Differences in Human Mate Preference: Evolutionary Hypothesis Tested in 37 Cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 12 (1989): pp. 1-14

Buss, D.M. Sex Differences in Human Mate Selection Criteria: An Evolutionary Perspective. In C. Crawford, M. Smith, and D. Krebs, eds. Sociobiology and Psychology: Ideas, Issues, and Applications. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates, 1987.

Buss, D.M., and M. Barnes. Preferences in Human Mate Selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 50 (1986): pp. 559-70.

Cate, R.M., and J.E. Koval. Heterosexual Relationship Development: Is It Really a Sequential Process? Adolescence, Vol. 18 (1983), pp. 507-14.

Catton, W.R., and R.J. Smircich. A Comparison of Mathematical Modes for the Effect of Residential Propinquity on Mate Selection. American Sociological Review, Vol. 29 (1964), pp. 522-29.

Centers, R. Sexual Attraction and Love: An Instrumental Theory. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas, 1975.

Commins, W.D. Marriage Age of Oldest Son. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 3 (1932): pp. 487-90.

Daly, M., and M. Wilson. Sex, Evolution, and Behavior. 2d ed. Boston: Willard Grant Press, 1983.

Elder, G.H. Jr. Appearance and Education in Marriage Mobility. American Sociological Review, Vol. 34 (1969), pp. 519-33.

Hill, R. Campus Values in Mate Selection. Journal of Home Economics, Vol. 37 (1945), pp. 554-58.

Howard, J.A., P. Blumstein, and P. Schwartz. Social or Evolutionary Theories? Some Observations on Preferences in Human Mate Selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 53 (1987), pp. 196-200.

Hudson, J.W., and L.F. Henze. Campus Values in Mate Selection: A Replication. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 31 (1969), pp. 772-75.

Jedlicka, D. A Test of the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mate Selection. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 112 (1980), pp. 295-99.

Kephart, W.M. Some Correlates of Romantic Love. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 29 (1967), pp. 470-74.

Kerckhoff, A.C., and K.E. Davis. Value Consensus and Need Complementarity in Mate Selection. American Sociological Review, Vol. 27 (1962), pp. 295-303.

Kirkpatrick, C. A Statistical Investigation of Psychoanalytic Theory of Mate Selection. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 32 (1937): pp. 427-30.

Mangus, A.H. Relationships Between Young Women's Conceptions of Their Intimate Male Associates and Their Ideal Husbands. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 7 (1936).

McGinnis, R. Campus Values in Mate Selection: A Repeat Study. Social Forces, Vol. 36 (1959), pp. 368-73.

Murstein, B.I. Paths to Marriage. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1986.

Murstein, B.I. Stimulus-Value-Role: A Theory of Marital Choice. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 32 (1970), pp. 465-81.

Murstein, B.I. Who Will Marry Whom? Theories and Research in Marital Choice. New York: Springer, 1976.

Peplau, L.A., and S.L. Gordon. The Intimate Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men. In E.R. Allgeier and N.B. McCormick, eds. Changing Boundaries: Gender Roles and Sexual Behavior. Palo Alto, Calif.: Mayfield, 1983.

Simpson, J.A., B. Campbell, and E. Berscheid. The Association Between Romantic Love and Marriage: Kephart (1967) Twice Revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 12 (1986), pp. 363-72.

Strauss, A. The Influence of Parent-images Upon Marital Choice. American Sociological Review, Vol. 11 (1946), pp. 554-59.

Taylor, P.A., and N.D. Glenn. The Utility of Education and Attractiveness for Females' Status Attainment Through Marriage. American Sociological Review, Vol. 41 (1976), pp. 484-98.

Townsend, J.M., and G.D. Levy. Effects of Potential Partners' Physical Attractiveness and Socioeconomic Status on Sexuality and Partner Selection. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 19 (1990), pp. 149-64.

Wiederman, M.W., and E.R. Allgeier. Gender Differences in Mate Selection Criteria: Socioeconomic or Sociobiological Explanation? Ethology and Sociobiology, Vol. 13 (1992), pp. 115-21.

Winch, R.F. Mate Selection: A Study of Complementary Needs. New York: Harper, 1958.

Michael W. Wiederman
Elizabeth Rice Allgeier


Menarche is the time in the life of a female when she begins her menstrual cycles. It is defined as the first time she spots blood as a discharge from her vagina. In the United States, menarche occurs at an average age of 12.8 years for white and 12.5 years for black females, with a range of from 8 to 18 years. Internationally, the age varies from 12.4 years in Cuban females to 18.8 years among females of the Bundi tribes of New Guinea. The average age of menarche among females in industrialized societies has declined about one year in the last century. Much work has been done to assess the effects of nutrition, health care, race, climate, and family size on the onset of menarche. It is also evident that genetic factors are at work, because the closer the kinship between females, the closer they are in age when they arrive at menarche.

Some researchers have proposed that menarche starts only when a minimum amount of body fat is present. Studies of long-distance runners, ballet dancers, gymnasts, and other athletes have shown that menarche has been delayed when they are in intensive training. Some of these women who have reached menarche stop menstruating.

Menarche usually occurs as breast growth reaches completion, and many hormonal changes begin to occur in the body. This is the time in many cultures when the girl becomes a woman. Vaginal secretions may increase, but it may take up to seven years before the menstrual cycles become regular. The woman may not ovulate regularly during this time; therefore, she may be infertile. This is not a predictable condition and should never be viewed as a means of birth control, because some females do ovulate and can become pregnant. It is during this time, however, that she does eventually become fertile.

Menarche can cause anxiety in a girl. She may be greatly concerned that she has not achieved this status at the same time as her friends, and when she does start menstruating, the physiological changes may be worrisome. She may become concerned because she is not regular in her periods. The attitudes of the adults around her can determine the level of anxiety and acceptance that she experiences with her new status. If they interpret menarche as the beginning of the "curse" she will have to endure every month for the next 40 years and as something to be hidden, then her anxiety will be increased and her feelings of self-worth decreased. If, however, menarche is celebrated as the beginning of her womanhood and regarded as a sign of maturation, she will have much more positive attitudes toward the process and toward herself. Interviews with young women have revealed that if their parents have honestly discussed the physiological changes they are experiencing, and if their new status is recognized in some special way such as with a dinner in their honor, the entire process is far less anxiety ridden.


Katchadourian, H.A. Biological Aspects of Human Sexuality. 4th ed. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1990.

Masters, W.H., V.E. Johnson, and R.C. Kolodny. Human Sexuality. 3d ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1988.

Reinisch, J.M. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

James D. Haynes


Menopause, or the "climacteric," is defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual activity. The average age at which a woman has her last menstrual period continues to be 50 years, as it has been, according to some Greek authors, since the fourth century C.E. The perimenopausal period generally refers to the transitional period beginning with menstrual cycle changes (typically between the ages of 35 and 45) and ending with the resolution of menopausal symptoms (typically between 50 and 58). Premature menopause is defined as cessation of menses before the age of 40 and occurs in approximately 8 percent of women, most often as a result of the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. In the Western world, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women form the majority of females with 33 percent of the entire female population being over 55 years old and another 25 percent being between 44 and 55 years old.

Physiologically speaking, ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovary, occurs less frequently as women reach their mid-40s. As a result, hormonal output of estrogen and progesterone is more varied and at lower levels, leading to menstrual periods that are either closer together or more irregular in pattern, as well as changes in the amount of bleeding from lighter periods to very heavy menstrual flows.

While it is possible to describe general patterns of menstrual cycle changes in the menopausal phase, individual experiences of this complex transitional period vary greatly. It is recommended that each woman keep a menopause menstrual record, beginning with the first missed period or marked change in the menstrual cycle and continuing throughout the menopausal phase.

Symptom reports vary widely by culture and have been noted to be decreased in countries and cultures where there is great respect for the wisdom of the aged. In the United States, where increased age is frequently associated with frailness, vulnerability, and lack of productivity, menopause, a distinct sign of aging, has been viewed negatively in the past in both medical and lay literature. Psychiatric literature and lay mythology have portrayed women as "wilted roses," pointing to menopause as a time of depression and lack of clear focus in life. However, reports of recent research, which involved asking women themselves about their menopausal experience, have indicated different and more positive menopausal attitudes, that is, women feeling relieved and more free than ever before in their lives.

In the perimenopausal period, it is generally estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of American women experience no menopausal symptomatology. Women experiencing symptoms report them to varying degrees, from mild to disabling. Hot flashes are the most frequently reported symptom, with 50 percent to 60 percent of women experiencing one or more hot flashes in the perimenopausal period. Other less frequently reported symptoms include night sweats, weight gain, vaginal dryness, depression, and excitability or anxiety. Of these, however, only hot flashes and night sweats are directly related to menopause; despite the listing of numerous symptoms frequently associated with menopause, such as depression and anxiety, research reports have not shown that these symptoms peak at this time or at any specific age in women.

Osteoporosis, or decalcification and "thinning" of the bones, is a medical problem frequently discussed in relation to menopause. The severity of osteoporosis increases concurrently with the drop in estrogen production in post-menopausal women. Approximately 25 percent of women are at risk of incurring bone fractures with age due to osteoporosis. Genetic or medical factors increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures include having a female relative with osteoporosis; being thin; being non-black; having had early menopause (before age 40), chronic diarrhea, or kidney disease; and using cortisone, thyroid medication, Dilantin, or aluminum-containing antacids daily. Life-style factors increasing the risk of osteoporosis include high alcohol use; smoking; lack of exercise; a low-calcium diet; lack of vitamin D from sun, diet, or vitamins; a very high protein diet; and high salt use.

While the recommended daily allowance for calcium is 800 milligrams, most nutritionists believe that women should consume 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams daily during their adult life. Since it is difficult to obtain this level of calcium intake from diet alone, calcium supplementation is frequently recommended for women over 35. Calcium tablets are easily found in the form of 500-milligram calcium carbonate or calcium citrate tablets in pharmacies or health food stores. For women over 35, two 500-milligram calcium tablets a day, taken with food, are generally recommended. It has been noted that calcium from bone meal and dolomite has contained lead and other contaminants, and therefore the intake of bone meal and dolomite tablets is not currently advised. Increasing the intake of calcium-rich foods is recommended for all women over age 35. Some foods rich in calcium are skim-milk powder, cooked collard greens, low-fat milk, canned sardines, and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) during menopause remains one of the most controversial issues dealt with currently. In a series of articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, the use of estrogen replacement therapy was consistently found to protect postmenopausal women against coronary heart disease, the most common cause of death in women. Additionally, the use of estrogens by postmenopausal women has been found to slow the progress of osteoporosis and reduce or alleviate perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. These benefits, however, have been contrasted with the possible development of breast cancer in association with postmenopausal estrogen use and the known four-fold risk of endometrial cancer among postmenopausal women using unopposed estrogen, or estrogen without progestins.

At this time, there is cautious support in the medical community for the broad use of estrogens among postmenopausal women based on the significant (40 to 50 percent) reduction in the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Feminists and some medical researchers, however, caution that the recent findings of significant estrogen benefits need to be more carefully studied among women willing to be randomly assigned to estrogen use in large clinical trials, rather than continuing to study women who may choose estrogen use (perhaps because they are more health conscious) versus women who do not use estrogens (perhaps because they are not an affordable option). Furthermore, feminists have suggested that the interaction between the societal message of the menopause experience as illness (or the "medicalization of menopause") and the potential of the ever-expanding marketplace for estrogen use be carefully analyzed. Until the results of the national randomized clinical trial (the Women's Health Initiative) are known, the decision to undergo estrogen replacement therapy remains a personal one based on individual and family risk profiles and on obtaining information from medical professionals and personal reading.

In the area of sexuality, the cultural atmosphere that represses the notion of middle-aged sex is being challenged now more than ever before. While experts agree that continued sexual activity until late in life depends almost entirely on two factors, health and attitude, the medical view of problems—"atrophic vaginitis," or dry, fragile vaginal tissue; "dyspareunia," or pain with intercourse; and a type of menopausal frigidity—is being replaced with research reports exploring the complexity of women's sexuality during this time in their lives. In 1976, The Hite Report drew attention to large numbers of women speaking candidly and in depth about their own sexuality, but only 14 of 438 pages concerned the older woman. Since then, despite continued difficulty for women in talking about the sexual details of their lives, varied themes have emerged regarding menopause and sexuality: for example, the theme of menopause as signaling a time of freedom, including freedom to fantasize, explore, and experiment; freedom from pregnancy; and freedom to choose not to have unsatisfying sex. According to Reitz, the complexity of the older woman's sexuality is only beginning to be explored.

In the development or maintenance of menopausal or postmenopausal "zest," yearly checkups with a medical practitioner who has a positive attitude toward women are important. At this time, a thorough physical examination is performed, questions and concerns are addressed, the self-breast examination is discussed, and a mammogram is ordered as needed. At least as important during this time is attention to diet, exercise, and a healthy life-style. Specifically, a diet high in vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and calcium-rich foods is optimal for the menopausal woman. Minimizing or eliminating caffeine is recommended, as is lowering the intake of meat, fat, sugar, and salt in the diet. The benefits of exercise are particularly significant during this period and include decreased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, easier weight control, improved appearance, decreased pain, and better sleep. Finally, decreasing noise, increasing the use of relaxation techniques, and utilizing other stress-reducing methods are recommended during the menopausal period. These measures, together with exercise and good nutrition, are all components of the life-style that has been associated with a positive approach to menopause and aging.


Goldman, L., and A. Tosteson. Uncertainty About Postmenopausal Estrogen. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 325 (Sept. 1991), pp. 800-02.

Greenwood, S. Menopause Naturally. Rev. ed. Volcano, Calif.: Volcano Press, 1989.

Hite, S. The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality. New York: Macmillan, 1976.

MacPherson, K. Menopause as Disease: The Social Construction of a Metaphor. Advances in Nursing Science, Vol. 3 (1981), pp. 95-113.

Martin, K., and M. Freeman. Postmenopausal Hormone-Replacement Therapy. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 328 (April 1993), pp. 115-17.

Mishell, D.R. Menopause: Physiology and Pharmacology. Chicago: Year Book Medical, 1987.

Nabulsi, A., A. Folsom, A. White, W. Patsch, G. Heiss, K. Wu, and M. Szklo. Association of Hormone-Replacement Therapy with Various Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 328 (April 1993), pp. 1069-75.

Reitz, R. Menopause: A Positive Approach, Radner, Pa.: Chilton, 1977.

Lisa Monagle


Menstruation is the periodic sloughing off of two layers of the uterine endometrium. The bits of tissue and the blood produced from the torn blood vessels produce the monthly "bleeding" that constitutes the menstrual flow. The events and time that occur between any two periods compose the menstrual cycle.

The average length of the menstrual cycle in human females is 28 days but may range from 21 to 40 days. Cycles outside of this range are considered irregular. The first day of the cycle is counted from the abrupt appearance of blood. The cycles usually start (menarche) at about age 12 and continue until about age 48, when they stop (menopause). Although an ovarian cycle is characteristic of all mammals, menstruation occurs only in female apes, some monkeys, and women.

After menarche, the cycles finally become regular and usually remain so. The process is continuous, however, with one cycle following another. The process is controlled by complicated interactions of hormones from the hypo-thalamus, anterior pituitary gland, and ovaries involving the entire reproductive system, but especially the ovaries, uterus, and vagina.

The menstrual cycle can be divided into four continuous phases. The menstrual phase begins with the appearance of blood on day one and continues for four or five days. The woman loses about one-half cup of blood, which is quickly replaced. Estrogens and progestins are reduced in the bloodstream and thus stop inhibiting the production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) by the anterior pituitary gland.

The increased amount of FSH stimulates the growth of several ovarian follicles and their enclosed ova in the ovaries. This marks the beginning of the preovulatory phase, which ends when a follicle migrates to the surface of the ovary and discharges its ovum into the body cavity. Usually, only one ovum matures each cycle. Increasing levels of estrogen produced from the cells of the developing follicle cause thickening of the endometrium and changes in the cervix and vagina. The increased levels of estrogen in the bloodstream reduce the sensitivity of the ovary to FSH. The preovulatory phase lasts from 7 to 19 days, and it is this phase that produces the varied lengths of the menstrual cycle in different women.

The high levels of estrogen stimulate the hypothalamus to release gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn causes the anterior pituitary to release luteinizing hormone (LH). The ovum is released about 12 to 24 hours after LH has reached its highest concentration, thus marking the ovulation phase, which is the shortest phase of the entire cycle and occurs on about the 14th day of a 28-day cycle, but always occurs 14 days before the onset of menstruation regardless of the length of the cycle.

The postovulatory phase begins as the released ovum starts to move through the Fallopian tube. A tissue called the corpus luteum is produced in the old ovarian follicle. This tissue begins to produce large amounts of progesterone and estrogen, leading to increased levels in the bloodstream. Under the influence of these hormones, the uterine wall begins to thicken and produce a nutrient fluid. Thus, the uterus is prepared for the arrival of a fertilized egg should pregnancy occur. The high levels of estrogen and progesterone in the blood cause the hypo-thalamus to stop the production of GnRH, causing the rapid decline of production of LH and FSH from the anterior pituitary. The reduction of these hormones decreases stimulation of the corpus luteum, which will degenerate in 10 to 15 days after ovulation unless fertilization of the egg occurs. The loss of the corpus luteum and the subsequent abrupt reduction in the production of estrogen and progesterone cause the endometrium to degenerate and slough off, starting the next menstruation.

Attitudes toward menstruation have varied greatly from culture to culture and among people within cultures. Many cultures have viewed women as impure or unclean during their period and have forced them to be secluded from ordinary social functions during their menstruation for fear that they would defile all that they touched. The fear is especially pronounced if religious objects are involved; this is a reason why women are often denied priesthood. The fluid itself may have been regarded as sacred or as having certain mystical powers. The woman had to undergo various cleansing rituals before she could again enter her usual social place.

In other cultures, menstruation has been considered to be a normal bodily function and necessary for procreation. In cultures where the cycle is understood by both women and men, there is far less superstition concerning its effects. However, certain prejudices may remain and exert either positive or negative influences on sexual interactions as well as the way a woman may regard herself during her period. If her period is regarded as a "curse," as having "the monthlies," or as "being on the rag," she may consider her condition to be a physical or emotional handicap. If, however, she considers her period to be part of her natural cycle, many of these types of trauma can be avoided.

Some women experience amenorrhea, a condition in which they may not menstruate over a long time. Amenorrhea can be brought on by stress, weight loss, or regular strenuous exercise, among other factors. Some women suffer from excessive menstrual flow (menorrhagia) that exceeds the usual 3 to 4 ounces.

There may be actual discomfort and pain associated with a woman's period. Although the severity of the symptoms varies from woman to woman, about half of all women suffer from dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation, in their early adult life. These cramps are caused by chemical substances, called prostaglandins, that produce contractions of the smooth muscles of the uterus. Some women may regularly suffer from Mittelschmertz, or "middle pain." This is pain or cramps in the lower abdomen or back that occurs during the time of ovulation, or about halfway between menstrual periods. It varies greatly in intensity but is not associated with any disorder of the reproductive organs.

A very controversial condition related to menstruation is premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Although the symptoms of this condition are generalized, the timing makes it unique for an estimated 30 percent to 90 percent of women; the symptoms usually appear between 7 and 14 days before menstruation and disappear with the onset of the flow. There is no widely accepted cause. The symptoms vary greatly in presence and intensity. They range from headaches to stuffy noses, fluid retention, fatigue, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, forgetfulness, and shifts in sexual desire. The symptoms may be so severe that some women (e.g., in Great Britain and France) have used PMS to demonstrate diminished capacity during the commission of violent crimes. PMS has been used in some arguments to indicate that women are incapable of occupying positions of responsibility. This argument, of course, ignores the fact that men also sometimes suffer from diminished capacity for other reasons.


Bullough, V.L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976.

Katchadourian, H.A. Biological Aspects of Human Sexuality. 4th ed. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1990.

Masters, W.H., V.E. Johnson, and R.C. Kolodny. Human Sexuality. 3d ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1988.

Reimsch, J.M. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

James D. Haynes


"Miscegenation" is from the Latin miscare, "to mix," + genus, "race." The term was used to describe a mixture of races, especially marriage or cohabitation between a white person and a member of another race.

The discourse on miscegenation proceeds from a Western European point of view that can be traced to the prohibition of marriage between Christians and Jews in the fifth century. Interest in cross-societal breeding is also indicated by the many labels used to describe the offspring of Europeans, sub-Saharan Africans, and aboriginal Americans in the Iberian New World. It is questionable whether these concerns can be considered "racial" in any modern sense of that word. When Africans were enslaved in the English colonies, a repugnance toward sexual relationships between "whites" and "blacks" emerged in the context of racist ideology, law, and science.

Concerns with "race mixing" are peripheral to endogamous norms, which are part of all societies and have as their main purpose the preservation of cultural and economic integrity. In the modern world, endogamy (the custom of marrying within some specified group) takes precedence and antimiscegenation occupies center stage, though the economic, cultural, and political concerns still echo through them.

The genetic blending and sexual relationships of diverse peoples were relatively unproblematic prior to the "age of exploration." Though there have recently been problems of "mixed race" children in Korea and Vietnam, historically the issue was both created and defined by Western Europeans—particularly English speakers. This was due to England's preeminence among the colonial powers and to demographic factors both in the colonies and at home. Although Afro-Asian, Afro-Amerindian, and Asian-Amerindian persons are sometimes considered miscegenated, this happened within the context of European colonialism and anti-Black racism. Though extensive miscegenation characterized all colonial situations, the Spanish and the Portugese recognized intermediate "racial" categories (mulattoes and Creoles), while the English-speaking colonies evolved toward a two-category (black-white) system.

The word "miscegenation" was coined in 1863 by the American journalist David Croly, who held that the Emancipation Proclamation was the desirable first step toward full equality among Americans, an equality that would inevitably involve extensive "interracial" marriage. His term "melaleukon" to describe the children of marriages between "whites" and "blacks" did not survive in the language. The survival of "miscegenation" undoubtedly owes much to its harsh sound and to the confusion of the Latin prefixes miscere and mis (bad).

Considering the enormous difficulty involved in determining if and how the categorization of human beings should occur, as well as the arbitrariness and political motivation of such categorization, miscegenation has more to do with politics than with biology, sex, or love. That two people having coitus should be considered to be engaging in miscegenation in some instances and not in others is nonsense in isolation from the horrendous and complicated history of "race" relations following the European expansion.

Since 1900, the acknowledged miscegenated peoples have increased at more than twice the rate of world population growth, but it is still a very small group (about 300 million persons, or about 5 percent of the world's 6 billion people). Most of these are Portugese- and Spanish-speaking Afro-Americans and Mestizos (persons of mixed European and native American ancestry). These certainly do not include all "race mixing" that has taken place in the last 500 years, or even a small fraction of the mixing of peoples that has occurred over the millennia of human experience.

If mate selection were "color-blind" and determined solely by chance love matches, 25 percent of marriages in the United States would be "interracial" (author's calculations), when, in fact, less than 2 percent are. Of these "chance" marriages, 19 percent would be between "black" and "white" spouses, but we actually observe that only four-tenths of 1 percent of all marriages are of this type. Because such marriages are so rare, those involved in them are confronted with problems of discrimination, misunderstanding, and identity confusion.

Since, as Goodman and Goodman point out, "the most virulent racial stereotypes are traditionally sexual and the most vicious sexual caricatures racially tinged," miscegenation will continue to be a hotly debated topic in the United States. Despite a slight decline in the marriage rate, most people want to marry. Despite a worsening marriage market (especially for "black" women), most people will be able to marry and have some choice of partners. People will continue to apply standards to potential mates—aesthetic, social, economic, and idiosyncratic. These standards will sometimes be violated and they will change. For the foreseeable future, "race" will be one of the standards used. Sometimes this standard will apply so that the cultural integrity of groups can be maintained. Sometimes "race" will tear lovers, families, and societies apart.


Goodman, L.E., and M.J. Goodman. "Particularly Amongst the Sunburnt Nations...". The Persistence of Sexual Stereotypes of Race in Bio-Science, Part I. International Journal of Group Tensions, Vol. 19 (1989), p. 221.

A. Robert Corbin


A misogynist is a person who hates women. Most misogynists are men. The condition is believed to develop from some childhood experience such as being raised by a brutal mother or other female. It may reflect an Oedipus complex (negative in men) or be associated with a homosexual conflict: women wishing desperately that they were men or men disappointed and bitter that they are. The range of expression of misogyny runs the gamut from mild avoidance behavior and disparaging remarks to serial torture and murder. Some men who are desperate for companionship engage in misogynistic behavior toward their wives in an effort to maintain power over them and discourage abandonment.

Misogyny is more accepted by some cultures than others, and acceptance may change with time within a given culture. Misogynistic attitudes and practices were commonplace among the early Hebrews, as described in Genesis, and the Homeric and post-Homeric Greek societies, for example. At present, abuse of wives is a serious social problem throughout the Americas and in many other cultures.

Misogyny has been explored as a literary theme at least as far back as the time of Aristotle. One of his pupils, Theophrastus, is credited with a treatise, On Marriage, which was widely read and inspired misogynistic undercurrents in the work of Chaucer and many others. Another popular treatise, Malleus Maleficarum (1485), by Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, depicted women as agents of the devil and promoted misogyny. Writers of the 20th century who have dealt with misogyny include D.H. Lawrence, H.L. Mencken, and the playwright Sidney Howard.


Forward, S., and J. Torres. Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Rogers, K.M. The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1966.

Alice P. Stein


Albert Moll (1862-1939) was a major rival to Magnus Hirschfeld. A Berlin neurologist, he wrote an influential book on homosexuality entitled Die Konträre Sexualempfindug (1891), in which he distinguished between innate and acquired homosexuality. He regarded innate homosexuality as a stepchild of nature and held that the sex drive was an innate psychological function that could be injured or malformed through no fault or choice of the individual.

He further refined his theory in a general treatise on sexuality, Untersuchungen über die Libido sexualis (1897), where he emphasized homosexuality as an illness, probably with an "inherited taint." His major work was his Handbuch der Sexualwissenschaft (1911), where he developed association therapy, the replacement of same-sex associations with those of the opposite sex, as a curative technique.

Over the years, Moll grew increasingly hostile to Hirschfeld, in part because of Hirschfeld's polemical style and because of what he regarded as the ethically dubious facets of Hirschfeld's activity. As he did so, he also changed his mind about the innate character of homosexuality and went into full opposition to Hirschfeld by organizing a rival international congress. Though never a Nazi (Moll came from a Jewish background), he mistakenly believed he could continue to be active under them, and after the Nazi takeover he was unable to practice and was more or less under house arrest until he died. His autobiography, Ein Leben als Arzt der Seek (1936), was his final attack on Hirschfeld's views. Though he still believed that there might be a few homosexuals whose orientation could be called innate, he felt that most homosexuality was acquired through improper sexual experiences and attacked those who argued for social and legal acceptance of homosexuality.

He pioneered the study of childhood sexuality in his Sexualleben des Kindes, and his handbook (mentioned above) was the first comprehensive work on sex. His theory of the sex life of the child had a profound effect on Freudian concepts, though Freud did not acknowledge it.


Sulloway, F. Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Myth. New York: Basic Books, 1979.

Vern L. Bullough


John "William Money (1921-2006) has exercised major influence on the development of sexology over the last half of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his studies in psychoendocrinology, but he has also paid special attention to diagnostic categories and invented terms for specific behaviors (e.g., love maps). He defined more than 40 paraphilias. He also has written on the history of sexology. In describing his own activities, Money wrote that he has always tried to combine research with clinical care, academic teaching, and public education. He has lectured widely and managed to lecture on all continents except Antarctica.

Money is a native of New Zealand. He was born in Morrinsville, New Zealand, on July 8, 1921, the son of Frank and Ruth Read Money. He graduated from Victoria University College in New Zealand in 1943 with a teacher's certificate and a double M.A., one in philosophy-psychology and one in education. He briefly taught in New Zealand before coming to the United States to do graduate work, first at the University of Pittsburgh and then at Harvard, where he received a Ph.D. in psychology in 1952. At Harvard, he became interested in the study of hermaphroditism, and it was on this topic that he wrote his dissertation. He joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in 1951 as part of a research team established by Lawson Wilkins, who had shown that the hormone cortisol, then newly synthesized, was the substance that could correct the adrenogenital syndrome known as virilizing adrenal hyperplasia. Shortly after his arrival at Hopkins, Money founded the office of psychohorrnonal research and, with others, the first gender identity clinic in the United States. He also established the research program for psychohormonal treatment of the paraphilias and of sex offenders and became codirector of the clinic.

Money was active in various public groups, including, from 1967 to 1969, the National Institutes of Mental Health task force on homosexuality; study sections of the National Institutes of Health; the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS); and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (SSSS), of which he was a charter member and a former president. A large number of his students also became influential in the development of sexology. Some of the stands Money has taken were fairly controversial, and not all his theories have proved to be viable; however, this is the case with most pioneers, and Money has broken new ground in the study of sex and gender. In addition to a large number of refereed articles, he also has written more popular books, including Man and Woman, Boy and Girl, on which he collaborated with A.A. Ehrhardt.

In his later years, Money became a controversial figure due to his role in a case of non-consensual sex-reassignment, the so-called John/Joan case. The person in question was a boy whose penis had accidentally been destroyed shortly after birth. On the advice of Money, the child was then reared as a girl. However, as it later turned out, this was a disastrous decision which, eventually, and much too belatedly, had to be reversed. The biologist Milton Diamond  uncovered the failure of this experiment, and the person, David Reimer, eventually went public with his story. He blamed Money for his tragic fate in adolescence and adulthood. Reimer eventually took his own life. Money never provided a full explanation of his role, thus leaving a cloud over his own reputation.

A prolific editor and writer, Money has authored more than 10 books and 300 journal articles, as well as coauthored or edited more than 20 books. Many of his articles have been collected together in books, one of which was entitled Venuses Penuses. This volume includes a brief autobiographical sketch and a complete bibliography of his works. He also coedited, with H. Musaph, a series of books entitled Handbook of Sexology, dealing with various aspects of sex and hormones, as well as other topics.

Money has received many honors and awards. In 1987, he received both the Harry Benjamin Distinguished Scholar Award and, from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, the Outstanding Research Accomplishments Award. In addition, he has been honored by the American Psychological Association, the Royal Society of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association, and the SSSS.


Money, J. Destroying Angel. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1985.

Money, J. Love and Love Sickness. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980.

Money, J. Lovemaps. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988.

Money, J. Sex Errors of the Body. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968,

Money, J. Venuses Penuses. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1986.

Money, J., and A.A. Ehrhardt. Man and Woman, Boy and Girl. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972.

Money, J., and H. Musaph. Handbook of Sexology. 6 vols. with supplement. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1977-91.

Diamond, M., Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 151(3), 298-304

"David Reimer: The boy who lived as a girl". CBC News. July, 2002. Retrieved 2006-01-20.

Colapinto, J. (2001). As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-092959-6. Revised in 2006

Colapinto, J. (1997-12-11). "The True Story of John/Joan". Rolling Stone: pp. 54–97.

Sari Locker (updated by Erwin J. Haeberle 2011)


Monogamy is a marriage form in which one man is married to one woman. In Murdock's ethnographic atlas of 849 human cultures, 709 (83.5 percent) allowed polygyny (one man with two or more wives), 137 (16.1 percent) were entirely monogamous (one man, one wife), and 4 (0.047 percent) were polyandrous (one wife with two or more husbands). Even though there are more polygamous cultures than cultures requiring monogamy as the only legal marriage form, monogamy is the only marriage form that is accepted in all societies and is by far the predominant form, even in cultures allowing for other forms.

Monogamy as a legal marriage form may be contrasted with monogamy as a behavior limiting one's sexual activity to a single partner. Monogamy in the latter sense is often contrasted with promiscuity (mating with a number of partners) rather than with other legally allowable forms of marriage. An individual in a monogamous culture who is in a monogamous legal relationship can engage in extramarital affairs without serious legal difficulties, but if he or she marries the partner with whom the affair is being conducted while at the same time being married to the original partner, he or she has committed bigamy, for which there are criminal penalties in all cultures allowing only for monogamous marriage.

Size differences between the sexes within the various primate species are related to the degree of monogamy-promiscuity among them. The more promiscuous the species the greater the size difference between the sexes. Baboons are the most promiscuous of the primates, with males being about 22 percent taller and 80 percent heavier than females. Gibbons are the most monogamous of the primates, and males and females are approximately the same height and weight. Humans lie between baboons and gibbons both in terms of size differences, with males being about 7 percent taller and 18 percent heavier than females, and in terms of monogamous-promiscuous behavior.

Gibbons select and stay with a mate throughout life, and this monogamy rule assures that males of all sizes have an equal chance to mate; however, baboons engage in a ferocious scramble to impregnate as many females as they can during mating season. The biggest and strongest males are able to mate more frequently, with the smallest and weakest perhaps enjoying no opportunity to mate at all. This mating scramble led to the evolutionary selection for greater size among male baboons and to a greater and greater divergence in size between the sexes.

A voluminous literature, as well as the ubiquity of prostitution and rape, attests to the fact that men are much more attracted to plural partners than are women. This behavioral sexual dimorphism, according to Naftolin, probably arose out of different reproductive mechanisms. Naftolin reminds us that the female reproductive pattern is periodic; she sheds one or more of a finite number of ova each month. To reproduce, she requires a fertile egg, the proper uterine environment, sexual receptivity, and a healthy partner. If the male reproductive pattern were also periodic, sperm shedding, sexual receptivity, and the aggressive impulses necessary to fend off competitors would have to be synchronized with the female's pattern. Such a synchronicity would be very difficult, and many precious ova would be wasted. The biologically efficient strategy required that males constantly produce fertile sperm and be constantly able and willing to shed them.

Endowed with cheap and plentiful sperm, and relatively free of responsibility for the care of offspring, males were freed by this reproductive pattern to spread their genes as far as their aggressive capabilities and good fortune allowed. Females would be better served reproductively by being more monogamous. Females certainly would have attracted numerous males to fertilize their eggs if they behaved promiscuously, but offspring survival, not simple fertilization, is the goal of the female reproductive strategy. A monogamous sentiment would be more likely to assure reproductive success through the care and protection of a jealous mate. After all, a male could not be expected to remain with a woman and her offspring and provide them with the support they need were he not reasonably sure of his paternity.

The issue of monogamy-promiscuity as sexually differentiated reproductive strategies is summed up by Mayr:

The male has little to lose by courting numerous females and by attempting to fertilize as many of them as possible. Anything that enhances his success in courtship will be favored by selection. The situation is quite different for the female. Any failure of mating with the right kind of male may mean total reproductive failure and a total loss other genes from the genotype of the next generation.
If evolutionary pressures favor promiscuity for males and monogamy for females, how can we account for the overwhelming popularity of monogamous marriage in a world in which men make the rules? Certainly, polygyny is much more favorable to the male reproductive strategy. The answer appears to be that the influence of genes and sex hormones is drastically reduced in species with social organization—monogamy is a cultural rather than a biological trait. Intelligent Homo sapiens realize that there are remote as well as immediate consequences attached to behavior and that often we have to sacrifice immediate gratification of our impulses for the long-term good. Freud pointed out that the sublimation of our sexual drives is necessary for cultural development, and, writing in the 19th century, Engels saw that monogamy was to become the dominant marriage form as societies became more complex.

There are many social, psychological, and economic reasons that make monogamous marriage the predominant marriage form in the world today. Quale lists a number of these reasons: (1) almost all members of society have maximal opportunity to marry, with relatively few being left out; (2) a method of sexual gratification is provided for both sexes; (3) intrasex jealousies and quarrels are minimized; (4) emotional needs of both sexes are more easily fulfilled in a monogamous relationship than in other marriage forms; (5) closer emotional bonds can exist between parents and children in a monogamous marriage; and (6) sociolegal issues such as inheritance, property rights, legitimacy, and lineage are less complicated than they are in other marriage forms. Additionally, the compact size of the monogamous nuclear family is best suited to life in industrial and postindustrial societies, in which frequent geographical mobility is often required. So despite all that has been written about "alternate marriage forms" over the past few decades, sociolegal monogamy will probably remain the world's predominant marriage form, even if tempered now and again by adultery.


Engels, F. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. 1884. Reprint. New York: International, 1972.

Eshleman, J.R. The Family: An Introduction. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1988.

Freud, S. Civilization and Its Discontents. Translated and edited by J. Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton, 1961.

Mayr, E. Sexual Selection and Natural Selection. In B. Campbell, ed. Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man 1871-1971. London: Heineman, 1972.

Murdock, G.P. Ethnographic Atlas. Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1967.

Naftolin, F. Understanding the Bases of Sex Differences. Science, Vol. 211 (1981), pp. 1263-64.

Nicholson, J. Men and Women: How Different Are They? New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984.

Quale, G.R. A History of Marriage Forms. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Walsh, A. Science and Love: Understanding Love and Its Effects on Mind and Body. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1991.

Anthony Walsh


On the surface, the topic of sexual morality is not especially popular in the sexual-education materials published today. Only a few of the general textbooks even mention the topic of personal values as they refer to sexual decision making. The one major exception was the 1979 text by Meyners and Wooster, which gave extended treatment to value decisions in choosing one's sexual life-style. Perhaps as Diamond and Karlen acknowledged in their text, some individuals object to discussion of certain topics in sex education on moral grounds.

Can sexual science avoid the question of values? Certainly not in the view of Scruton. This contemporary philosopher includes an entire chapter on sexual morality in his book Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic. Some sexual scientists would agree that sexology has significant dialogue with value issues. When Money introduced the term "sexosophy" into the literature, he argued that even the so-called hard sciences are not value free. In Money's analysis, sexosophy is about tradition, history, and religion. Sexology, the science of sex, he argues, must not be limited by any particular sexosophy. Sexology, the science of sex, and sexosophy, the philosophy and moral principles of sex, are influenced by and reflect values. Thus, it will be argued here that sexual scientists can study the sexual morality of individuals and cultures; that sexual science is affected by the value assumptions that sex educators, sex researchers, and clinicians make; and that scientific data and theory can in turn affect values.

The "value free" stance on moral issues pragmatically makes good sense when dealing with controversial sexual topics. However, in doing so, the sexual scientist risks the fallacy of mixing up the meanings of relativism. "Descriptive relativism" acknowledges cultural differences and cultural conflicts. "Normative relativism" advocates that what is acceptable in one society may not be in another. "Metaethical relativism" contends that there is no rational way to justify any particular set of moral principles. Thus, according to Rich and DeVitis, to insist that sex education, sex therapy, and sex research must be value free is to assume that there are no universal sexual standards. To assume that there are no universal sexual standards is a moral position, hence not neutral; thus, sexologists are not "value free." They may be "value fair," in that the emphasis is on dialogue and critical thinking about value assumptions and moral traditions.

The sexosophy-sexology tension is not unique to sexual science. Kurtines, Alvarez, and Azmitia argue that the philosophy of science has rejected the legitimacy of the value-free assumption. They go on to identify critical issues for science in general and for those who would study moral phenomena in particular. "Normative assumptions" refer to norms, values, and principles. In general, moral theory is concerned about normative assumptions. Issues and conflicts can arise between scientists and moralists at different levels of inquiry. D'Andrade grouped science into the categories of physical sciences, natural sciences, and semiotic sciences. Psychology, some sociology, and some anthropology are natural sciences. Some psychology, sociology, and anthropology are semiotic sciences. Semiotic sciences study those phenomena that are "imposed" on the individual and society rather than being the consequence of the natural world. To some extent, sexual morality is imposed on the individual. Thus, the scientific study of sexual morality is a semiotic science. The moral assumptions of the sexual scientist, however, are sexosophy rather than sexology.

Kurtines and his colleagues identify three major moral periods in the Western tradition. Classical moral theory (500 B.C.E.–400 C.E.) is described as being "objectivistic, rationalistic, and naturalistic." Objective moral standards were thought to be derivable from the natural world. The moral theory in this period tended to stress justice and happiness. During the medieval moral period (400–1400), naturalism and secular assumptions were rejected. A theistic worldview, which Centore has called "psychosomaticism with belief in immorality," was dominant. Thus, the source of moral theory was spiritual and outside the natural world. Faith rather than reason was stressed. Love, especially the love of God, was emphasized as the major moral concern. By the 17th century, modern moral theory was established within Western culture. Modern moral theory can be described as being once again naturalistic but relativistic. Thus, modern scientific truth is "contingent truth" rather than "objective truth." Scientific conclusions are always subject to change in response to new research findings.

Kurtines and his colleagues also discuss five dimensions or categories of normative assumptions: (1) universal, unchanging standards versus norms and values relative to a given culture, a time in history, a specific situation, or personal judgment; (2) ultimate goals and ultimate values versus obligations and principles of human conduct; (3) primacy of reason, insight-intuition, or sensory experience; (4) emphasis on natural law versus revelations from a supernatural power or supernatural being; and (5) the nature of the values, principles, or standards emphasized, such as justice or the good life.

When the scientist's conclusions are challenged by the moralist, "theoretical discourse" takes place between the scientist and the moralist. When the scientist challenges existing values or norms or the legitimacy of institutions that set the standards for conduct, the communication becomes "practical discourse." When the arguments focus on the theory of truth itself, then the scientist and moralist are engaging in "metatheoretical discourse."

As a sexual scientist, Money has characterized U.S. society as a "sexual dictatorship." His observations, briefly summarized below, illustrate a call for "practical discourse." Sexual taboo in this society has a long tradition and is extremely powerful. The sexual taboo proscribes sexual behavior and what one can think about as well. Anything that falls outside the narrow range of what is doctrinally correct is sexual heresy. In contemporary society, disobedience is punished by secular authorities rather than by church authorities. Secular legislative bodies create laws derived from the authority of the church. Governmental agencies seek out and punish sexual heretics. As a semiotic science, sexology will inevitably challenge some of the normative ethics of religion and government. Some challenges may be welcomed, while others may be bitterly contested, especially if the distinction between sexology and sexosophy is not understood and maintained.

Traditional Roman Catholic ideology, for example, condemned homosexuality. Consistent with this moral tradition, homosexuality was long viewed as a mental-health problem by the mental professionals. Fifty years ago, Fuller noted that many crimes mirror the moral values of the society and went on to assert that the moral issue on homosexuality was clearly settled. But his conclusion was premature. In 1973, by action of the governing board of the American Psychiatric Association, homosexuality was dropped as a diagnostic category. That decision was controversial at the time, although the change reflected a growing scientific sentiment. In like manner, the treatment of homosexuality in sociology and psychology textbooks increasingly reflects accurate scientific data rather than the normative ethics of the society.

While there is controversy over what is meant by moral behavior and moral character, there is ample evidence that morality can be studied scientifically. According to the judgment of Kurtines and Gewirtz, there are four basic approaches to the psychological study of morality, moral behavior, and the development of moral judgment: (1) the "cognitive-developmental structural approach," (2) the "stage-structural constructivist approach," (3) the "learning-behavioral developmental approaches," and (4) the "social-personality theory approaches." Sapp identifies four models also, namely, "structural-developmental theory," "personological and psychodynamic explanations," the "social-learning theory approach," and "cognitive-developmental theory and pragmatic philosophy of science." Rich and DeVitis emphasize the centrality of the work of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who noted the conflicting interests of the individual and society. Rich and DeVitis discuss diverse approaches to moral development, with emphasis on moral development during childhood, adolescence, and while attending a college or university.

It has often been observed that individuals are prone to make moral evaluations. The intent of those moral evaluations often is to influence the future behavior of someone, or to have the hope of doing so. Simon and Gagnon have called the rules that govern sexual behavior "cultural scenarios. " Since part of that sexual scripting is moral education, formally and informally, sexual science is a semiotic science when it investigates sexual morality. It has been shown that considerable effort has been expended in the study of various aspects of sexual morality. What is needed is a more systematic and more theoretically guided research. It is clearly evident that sexual scientists make value assumptions and that those value assumptions influence the field. Since this is the case, sexology can, and even has the ethical duty to, engage in "practical discourse" with the defenders of normative sexual ethics.

Potential contributions of the scientific study of sexual morality to society and the individual are summarized as follows: (1) the investigation of individual differences in sexual ethics and the potential consequences of those values for the welfare of others in society; (2) the clarification of the relationship of sexual problems and normative sexual ethics; (3) a challenge to sexual ethics that implies scientific data which is actually nonexistent or that is defended by theory and data which are scientifically flawed; (4) the development of scientific theories of sexual moral development; and (5) the documentation of arbitrary and unfair discrimination based on poorly justified moral evaluation of divergence from normative sexual ethics.

As sexual scientists deal with these and similar issues, it is to be hoped that they will also be more willing to discuss their ethical assumptions.


Centore, F.F. Persons: A Comparative Account of the Six Possible Theories. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979.

D'Andrade, R. Three Scientific World Views and the Covering Law Model. In D.W. Fiske and R.A. Shweder, eds., Metatheory in Social Sciences. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1986.

Diamond, M., and A. Karlen. Sexual Decisions. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.

Fuller, R.C. Morals and the Criminal Law. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 32 (1942), pp. 624-30.

Habermas, J. Knowledge and Human Interest. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.

Kelley, H.H. Attribution in Social Interaction. In E.E. Jones, D.E. Kanouse, H.H. Kelley, R.E. Nisbett, S. Valins, and B. Weiner, eds. Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior. Morristown N.J.: General Learning Press, 1972.

Kurtines, W.M., and J.L. Gerwitz, eds. Morality, Moral Behavior, and Moral Development. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1984.

Meyners R., and C. Wooster. Sexual Style: Facing and Making Choices About Sex. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.

Money, J. Sexosophy: A New Concept. Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 18 (1982), pp. 364-66.

Money, J. Venuses Penuses: Sexology, Sexosophy, and Exigency Theory. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1986.

Rich, J.M., and J.L. DeVitis. Theories of Moral Development. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1985.

Sapp, G.L., ed. Handbook of Moral Development: Models, Processes Techniques, and Research. Birmingham, Ala.: Religious Education Press, 1986.

Scruton, R. Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic. New York: The Free Press, 1986.

Simon, W., and J.H. Gagnon. Sexual Scripts: Permanence and Change. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 15 (1986), pp. 97-120.

Robert A. Embree


Prince A. Morrow (1846-1913), an American physician and reformer and the effective founder of the social hygiene movement, was born in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. He graduated from Princeton College, a small institution in Kentucky, in 1864, financing his education by teaching school. He took an M.D. from New York University in 1874 and studied extensively in Europe as he established himself as a specialist in dermatology in New York City.

In that day, venereal diseases were a part of the specialty of dermatology, but Morrow made his reputation initially by work on skin diseases in general, especially leprosy. In 1880, he translated a book about the terrible consequences of venereal disease, Jean-Alfred Fournier's Syphilis and Marriage. But Morrow showed little special interest in the subject until 1893, when he edited a book on syphilis. In 1899, he attended at his own expense the first of two international conferences in Brussels—largely on the initiative of Fournier—concerning venereal diseases as public health problems (both syphilis and gonorrhea had taken on much graver aspects as a result of medical findings of the late 19th century). Upon his return, Morrow spoke indignantly in professional groups about the tragedy of syphilis of the innocent, that is, the wives and children who contracted the disease from immoral husbands and fathers but who were themselves entirely innocent of sexual transgressions. Also, in the 1890s, Morrow, unlike others of that time, came to believe that medical inspection of prostitutes was not an effective way of combating venereal diseases.

After the second Brussels conference, in 1902, Morrow was asked to found an American organization to work for venereal disease control, comparable to the French Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, founded in 1900 by Fournier. Morrow instead wrote a book, Social Diseases and Marriage, and not until 1904 did he attempt to found an organization. He was not encouraged, because the subject was one that could not be discussed openly in the United States.

Finally, in 1905, he assembled 25 people—a mixture of lay and medical personnel, just as in the successful contemporary antituberculosis organizations—at the New York Academy of Medicine. They founded the American Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, dedicated to limiting "the spread of diseases which have their origin in the Social Evil," that is, prostitution. The society made slow progress at first because of the startling approach that the otherwise conservative Morrow and his colleagues took.

Morrow first of all urged a vigorous campaign of propaganda to educate the public at large about the dangers of venereal diseases. Then he also urged a powerful movement to abolish prostitution. Both of these approaches breached widespread customs and beliefs in the United States. But eventually the group expanded and gained organizational support throughout the country from both medical professionals and laypersons, with the medical people at first constituting the largest contingent. Within a few years, the purity groups converged with Morrow's group, which in 1910 became the American Federation for Sex Hygiene. That organization formally joined with the purity groups in 1913 to form the American Social Hygiene Association (which much later became the American Social Health Association). To the previous antiprostitution and disease-prevention emphases the purity groups brought particular emphasis on monogamous marriage as a positive alternative to promiscuity and the old double standard.

The social hygiene movement flourished for many decades and had decisive effects on American standards of sexual behavior, particularly on ideals of marriage. The American movement, in fact, lasted far longer and had far more profound social effects than the original French group on which Morrow modeled his efforts. Morrow died in 1913, but he had already assembled a formidable set of successors. They all appealed to reformers in their fund-raising and enjoyed some of their successes because they were an integral part of the Progressive reforms of the opening years of the 20th century. Sometimes the emphasis was on education, including sex education in the schools. Sometimes their efforts were directed primarily to the detection and cure of venereal diseases. Sometimes the emphasis tended to be on fighting prostitution or on encouraging personal purity. But all of the work could be traced back to the impetus of Morrow, who first effectively challenged the conspiracy of silence and the double standard.


Brandt, A.M. No Magic Bullet; A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985.

Burnham, J.C. The Progressive Era Revolution in American Attitudes Toward Sex. Journal of American History, Vol. 59 (1973), pp. 885-908.

Clarke, C.W. Taboo: The Story of the Pioneers of Social Hygiene. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1961.

John C. Burnham


A physician and professor of personal hygiene, Clelia Duel Mosher (1863-1940) was a pioneer in the study of women's sexuality. Her unpublished study Statistical Survey of the Marriages of Forty-Seven Women is the earliest known survey of American women's sexual behavior and attitudes. Begun prior to 1900 and continued through 1920, Mosher's research involved questionnaires that posed such questions as the reason for intercourse, the ideal and actual frequency of sexual relations, the frequency of orgasm, whether contraception was used, and the number of conceptions by choice and by accident. The majority of participants, raised and married in the 19th century, responded in a manner contrary to the accepted Victorian view of women's sexuality—women desired sexual intercourse and experienced orgasms.

Mosher's 30 years of research on menstruation (1890 to 1920) determined that menstrual difficulties were caused by constrictive corsets, which deformed internal organs and bone structure. Her solution was sensible clothing and deep-breathing exercises to build up weak abdominal muscles. Mosher also studied fear of menopause. She claimed that the problem was more psychological than physiological and less difficult for professional women involved in their work than for homemakers, whose role in life had changed since their children had grown and left home. For them, she prescribed better health by filling empty hours with volunteer work.

After ten years of private practice as a physician, Mosher chose to return to academia to resume her research. She became a professor of personal hygiene and medical adviser to women at Stanford University, where she remained for nineteen years until her retirement in 1929.



Mosher, C.D. Health and the Woman Movement. New York: Young Women's Christian Association, 1916.

Mosher, C.D. Personal Hygiene for Women. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1927.

Mosher, C.D. Woman's Physical Freedom. New York: Woman's Press, 1923.


Degler, C.N. What Ought to Be and What Was: Women's Sexuality in the Nineteenth Century. American Historical Review, Vol. 79 (Dec. 1974), pp. 1467-90.

Jacob, K.A. The Mosher Report. American Heritage, Vol. 32 (June-July 1981), pp. 57-64.

MaHood.J., and K. Wenburg, eds. The Mosher Survey: Sexual Attitudes of 45 Victorian Women. New York: Arno, 1980.

Hilary Sternberg


Sexuality in Early Films
Early Modern Film
Modern Film
Sexually Liberated Modern Film
The Future

The psychological impact of the cinematic process makes film the most overwhelming purveyor of sexual fantasy ever devised. Cinema, often expressive of sexuality, was, however, tempered by the mores of society and limited by censorship.

A kiss is perhaps the first known example of sex in the cinema. In the 1890s, a kiss between John C. Rice and May Irwin in a Broadway play called The Widow Jones routinely caused no stir in the audience. In 1896, when this scene was turned into a brief, episodic film on a large screen, the audience suddenly felt intimately involved. Some were scandalized; others favored the film. Over the decades, the use of large-size screens and the development of technological innovations amplified the psychological impact of film.

Filmmakers quickly learned that sexuality and violence in cinema attracted audiences. Such content also elicited a heated cry to censor films to protect the innocent, as they were societally defined. Rather than risk the boycott of a film, Hollywood succumbed to censorship pressures to ensure that each film would be shown in the greatest number of movie houses. Only by appealing to the broadest possible audience could a maximum profit be achieved.


A filmed version of a belly dance, Fatima (1897), is credited with the birth of screen censorship. The Dance of the Seven Veils, performed in person by Fatima at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893, caused no great alarm. However, the response of the audience to the dance on film was so emphatic that it prompted one early censor to paint obscuring lines above and below the waist of the dancer.

American film censorship was imposed by means of statute, actions of producers and distributors, or pressure from private groups, including religious authorities. Cities such as Chicago practiced film censorship as early as 1907. In 1915, the U.S. Supreme Court found that prior restraint (precensoring films before public viewing) was not a violation of freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. After this decision, Maryland, New York, and other states followed the lead set earlier by Pennsylvania in 1911 and appointed official censorship boards, which actually engaged in reediting films before they were publicly shown.

What Hollywood stars did offscreen, and how they were portrayed by journalists such as William Randolph Hearst, affected the public's opinion of them, their careers, and ultimately the course of film history. After a series of scandals, Hollywood became known as home to rapists, bigamists, drug addicts, and murderers. Wilbur Craft, a Protestant clergyman and a major proponent of censorship at that time, advocated the need "to rescue the motion pictures from the hands of the devil and 500 un-Christian Jews." Many joined this call for reform.

Hollywood producers feared the growth of restrictive regulations, including federal censorship. They organized the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America (MPPDAA) in 1921 to voluntarily practice preproduction self-censorship. Will B. Hays, a former campaign manager for Warren G. Harding and a Presbyterian elder, was appointed to head the MPPDAA, which subsequently became known as the Hays office. Hays first worked mainly as a lobbyist to counter the scandals of the film stars and prevent censorship legislation. Soon, the Hays office proposed adding "morality clauses" to Hollywood contracts, whereby stars who became involved in scandal could be dismissed legally. By 1927, the Hays office had devised a production code of "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" to ensure "good taste."

Power to enforce this policy came in 1934 through the Production Code Administration. Hays appointed Joseph Breen, a journalist with Catholic newspapers, to head the Administration. Films conforming to the "code" were given the Administration's seal of approval. Without the seal, exhibitors commonly did not show a film out of fear that the Legion of Decency, or others, would condemn the film and boycott the theater. When Breen resigned more than a decade later, his duties were assumed by the newly formed Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The Catholic Church's Legion of Decency, established in 1934, urged parishioners, under pain of mortal sin, to avoid films it condemned. The Legion's condemnation was feared for its economic impact.

Sexuality in Early Films

Early in the 20th century, episodic films, two to three minutes in length, were popular in penny arcades. Some provoked Victorian sensibilities. In one arcade film How Bridget Served the Salad Undressed, a maid, who misunderstands instructions, serves the salad wearing little more than her petticoat (Lennig 36). In another, In a Woman's Boudoir, a woman disrobes to her petticoat. A popular "plot" showed dancers in various stages of undress.

One-reelers followed, and they retained the same modesty but advanced cinema to simple stories with crime or illicit sex as favorite topics. Films such as Wages of Sin, a catalog of delightful transgressions, uniformly ended in moral preachment. This pattern, known as the law of compensating values, became a Hollywood tradition. A film could depict all kinds of human misbehavior, including sexual immorality, as long as in the last reel virtue triumphed and evil received its just punishment.

Early European films featured nudity and were shown alongside puritanical American products. They posed no language problem, as visuals told the story in these silent films. French filmmakers dominated world cinema in the first decade of the 20th century and were inspired by famous paintings of nudes, such as The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Early German filmmakers favored literary adaptations, often suggestive, such as Salome, while Italian cinema pioneered the "spectacle," featuring earlier, "barbaric," civilizations, which provided the excuse for nudity as well as scenes of violence such as rape. German, French, and various South American filmmakers made pornography at this early time. Pornography was not produced for public viewing but for viewing privately, sometimes in bordellos.

American producers lured audiences to the theater with the expectation of witnessing depraved behavior. A typical plot might involve a naive country girl coming to the city to improve her life. When unmet by the agent who had promised her a legitimate job, she finds herself abandoned and without resources. A "stranger" convinces her that her only alternative is a life of prostitution. One of many such pictures featuring white slavery was George Loane Tucker's Traffic in Souls (1913).

Actresses in early Hollywood films portrayed either seductive manipulators, vamps, or innocents. The film The Vampire (1913), with Alice Hollister, popularized the role of the vamp in America, while Theda Bara came to personify the character in A Fool There Was (1914). Characteristically, the men in such films abandon their family and become addicted to alcohol or drugs used by the vamp as accessories in her seduction. Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters all portrayed young and wholesome women who maintain their innocence. Such a woman offers a husband her virginity on their wedding night, but only after she successfully rebuffs a villain. In D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), Mae Marsh commits suicide after an act that implied rape by a black soldier. In another episode, the Ku Klux Klan saves Lillian Gish, who is pressured by a mulatto (Silas Lynch) to marry him. The film was banned in Europe for decades because of its blatant racism.

There were several notable actresses in early cinema. The Polish exotic actress Pola Negri portrayed an unrepentant and sexy flirt in such German films as Madame DuEarry (1919), released as Passion in America. Her first American film, Bella Donna, featured a Negri so subdued to avoid censorship that the film was a disappointment. Her personal life, including involvements with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentine, was publicized by the studio to promote an "adventuress" image.

In Flaming Youth (1923), Colleen Moore, one of the first flappers, portrays a self-confident woman who enjoys parties, defies convention, is susceptible to redemption, and achieves true happiness at film's end. Casualness and independence personified the flapper, so named for wearing goloshes unhooked (hence, they "casually" flapped). Clara Bow, in It (1927), became known as the "It Girl"—the girl with sex appeal. In her films, Bow, the most famous flapper, typically danced, gyrated, and wiggled but was, essentially, a "good girl" in terms of conventional morality.

In the 1920s, Greta Garbo, the great Swedish actress, had been known in Europe as a seductress and frequently played the role of a woman "with a past." In America, her image was that of an intriguing, glamorous, sensual, unpredictable, soft, and vulnerable woman who could be happily in love with the right man. The films' endings were never happy, because she would have made a prior commitment, or even consummated a marriage, with an older man whom she did not love. Her first American film, eminently popular, was The Torrent (1926). She also portrayed prostitutes in Anna Christie (1930) and Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931).

Hollywood had two types of leading men. Douglas Fairbanks, the athletic "all-American boy," was rather straitlaced in his approach to sex and was respectful toward women. In contrast, leading men like Adolph Menjou were male "vamps." The most famous of such men was Rudolph Valentine, whose first film was Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1922). These were the dangerous "Latin lovers." Though Valentine himself was pictured as seduced in some films, in his famous Son of the Sheik (1926) he carries a woman off on horseback and then "has her" by force, a literal "rape." Many women publicly responded that they would be willing victims indeed if he were to be the "rapist."

Eric von Stroheim became known as America's "leading villain." In Foolish Wives (1922), which he directed, he plays a European gigolo who attracts die neglected wives of American workaholics. Other films he directed depict eccentric sexual fetishes. In The Wedding March (1926), a rape takes place in a slaughterhouse. As the couple lies writhing on the floor, blood drips on them from a recently slaughtered cow. In The Merry Widow (1925), one character keeps the shoes of each of his "conquests" as a souvenir.

Cecil B. DeMille exploited the law of compensating values. According to DeMille, a brief act of redemption could hardly be shown if the sin had not been well witnessed, as in The Ten Commandments (1923).

Visuals compensated for what films lacked in sound. DeMille's films showed lavish bathrooms with comely maidens, such as Gloria Swanson, in discreet poses and elegant bedrooms with double beds inviting sexual activity by implication. Plots featured the sexual pursuit of someone young, attractive, and generally easily available. Starting in 1914, Max Sennett, in his Keystone Cops routines, included "bathing beauties," whose bathing suits revealed bare legs and caused titillation, if not shock.

Early Modern Film

The Great Depression had a severe impact on film receipts. Producers had to adjust their strategy. Films, now with sound, reflected social reality by picturing crimes that plagued the nation, especially bootlegging. Mobsters and their women, "gun molls," shared the same social values, but the molls suffered rough treatment. Some men were blatantly sadistic. James Cagney, in Public Enemy (1931), enthusiastically mashes half a grapefruit in his girl's face. In Taxi (1932), he gives a woman a black eye, and in Lady Killer (1933), he drags a woman around by her hair. Clark Gable also displayed this sadism - for example, roughing up Norma Shearer—in films like Free Soul (1931).

Actresses presented an image of brazen hussiness. Marlene Dietrich, in the German film Blue Angel (1930), plays a coldhearted vamp who humiliates a school teacher obsessed with her. Yet Dietrich, in her first American film, Morraco (1930), portrays a good-hearted "entertainer" who must choose between a rich, older man (Adolph Menjou) and a poor legionnaire (Gary Cooper) with whom she shares a "chaste" friendship.

The "blonde bombshells," Jean Harlow and Mae West, represented sexually aggressive women who enjoyed men. Jean Harlow, in Hell's Angels (1930), utters the line still heard, "Would you mind if I slip into something comfortable?" This meant a diaphanous boudoir set that clearly revealed the contours of her body. In this film, Harlow seduces her fiancé's brother, and others, with no hint of bashfulness. Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1932) is equally blatant. West was famous for sexual double entendres and rated her lovers' performances with lyrics to songs such as "I Like a Guy Who Takes His Time" and "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone."

Censors reacted and imposed new levels of constraint through the Hays Office and the Legion of Decency. Literary works were sanitized for films. William Faulkner's novel Sanctuary was released as The Story of Temple Drake (1933), minus its famous references to sexual perversity. The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), by Sidney Franklin, was dramatized without incest. The strong lesbian element in the play The Children's How disappeared in the film version released by William Wyler as These Three (1936). In 1962, Wyler redid the film, finally entitled The Children's Hour, but only gingerly touched on its homosexual content. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1935), directed by Clarence Brown, presented the central infidelity within a gentler framework.

Stars known for their sexuality had to portray subdued characters. In Jack Conway's Saratoga (1937), Jean Harlow's blatant sexual aggression disappears. Joan Crawford, a flapper, found a new screen personality. Bette Davis, a new star, plays in Of Human Bondage (1934), directed by John Cromwell, with an implied but never displayed sexual appetite. Child stars who were "innocent" of sex became popular, especially Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland.

Implied sexuality pervaded American films. Ingrid Bergman, in Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939), has an illicit affair with a married man, but the sin is not documented and she realizes her "mistake." When the chastened hero and heroine travel together, they occupy separate rooms in a hotel. Censorship of this period allowed married couples to be shown in separate, single beds, clad in conservative nightclothes. At the close of the 1930s, romantic heroes such as Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn portrayed men of action whose sexual rewards were presented innocently.

Foreign films escaped puritanization. Many European countries in the 1920s and 1930s passed laws setting 14 to 18 years of age as the minimum for admission. In the Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy (1933), directed by Gustav Machaty, Hedy Lamarr swims in the nude and consummates an illicit affair in the out-of-doors. The Legion of Decency condoned the film's release in this country after cuts and reshooting created a toned-down version. Nevertheless, many states still would not allow the film to be shown.

By the 1940s, there was no overt sexuality in American cinema. Musicals, highly popular at the time, permitted attractive women to appear in scanty costumes for the spectacle of dance and music, not as an enticement for sexual display. Betty Grable, a prominent leading woman in musicals, had a famous rear-view pin-up pose; her head, turned back over her shoulder, highlighted her shapely legs. More than 2 million fans, many of whom were among the 11 million soldiers at that time, requested a copy of her sexually enticing still. Rita Hayworth wore a slip in a revealing pin-up that was also popular with soldiers. The photograph was a still from Gilda (1946), directed by Charles Vidor, which features Hayworth dancing provocatively and being accused wrongfully of infidelity. Two other popular pin-ups of the war period were Hedy Lamarr and Veronica Lake.

The American woman of World War II did not express herself sexually while her husband was away in the army. Instead, "Rosie the Riveter" left home to enter the workplace, and motion pictures reflected this. Two romantic rather than sexual films of career-oriented leading women were His Girl Friday (1940), directed by Howard Hawks and starring Rosalind Russell, and Adam's Rib (1949), directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn.

The Outlaw (1946), openly promoted as a sexually explicit film, provoked an active battle with the Hays office. The promotional stills revealed Jane Russell, another popular pin-up of the late war years, lying on her back on a haystack wearing a partially open blouse. Another controversial film was Forever Amber (1947), starring the sexually attractive Linda Darnell. Because the novel on which the film was based detailed amorous adventures of the mistress of Charles II, the Legion of Decency wanted no film made of it. The director, Otto Preminger, persevered but had to surrender the integrity of the story by sanitizing the film.

In Europe, normal film production was disrupted by the war. The Nazis produced films glorifying the Aryan race and did not find an interest or use for films involving sexuality. In one film, Veit Harlan's Jude Sússe (1940), a Jewish financier rapes an Aryan woman in front of her husband, who has just been savagely beaten on the orders of the "Jew." At the film's end, the "Jew" is executed by slow roasting at the hands of the "masses of people."

Interrupted by World War II, Italian film production quickly resumed as early as 1945. Roberto Rossellini, in Open City (1945), depicted drug addiction, prostitution, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Another postwar Italian neorealist film was Rossellini's Paisan (1946). This episodic film revealed the brutal conditions endured by the Italian populace at the end of the war. In one episode, an American soldier meets a prostitute but does not recognize that she is the "innocent" he had encountered earlier during the war.

Modern Film

The last half of the 20th century brought new freedom to filmmaking. New York City Catholics urged the banning of Rosellini's short film The Miracle (1950) on the grounds of sacrilege. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in 1952, that motion pictures enjoyed protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Films portraying religious dogma were no longer subject to prior restraint. A number of subsequent decisions by the Court reaffirmed protection against infringement on freedom of expression.

The Miracle precipitated the reversal of the 1915 position of the U.S. Supreme Court on prior restraint. In it, Anna Magnani, believing that a passing stranger is St. Joseph, becomes pregnant by him. She is humiliated by her neighbors but has the child and breast-feeds him. Decades later, Hail Mary (1985) by Jean-Luc Godard portrays a contemporary Mary engaged to a taxi driver named Joseph, but their involvement is chaste. She tries to convince her fiancé that her pregnancy is an "immaculate" conception. A number of theologians of various Christian denominations found Godard's exploration to be sensitive and motivated by high purpose. Others felt the treatment was sacrilegious and that a nude, pregnant Mary was the final, intolerable insult.

Financial pressures resulting from competition from television forced Hollywood producers in new directions. To survive, producers began to risk boycott by the Legion of Decency. Otto Preminger released The Moon Is Blue (1953) without the seal of approval and with a condemned rating from the Legion of Decency for the use of the terms "virgin," "mistress," and "pregnancy." The film drew a better audience than anticipated. By 1968, when Mike Nichols released Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, few words were considered too obscene to be used freely in film.

Producers pursued the audiences of the "art" theaters which featured adult films pioneered by foreign filmmakers. One of the first American films aimed at the new adult market was Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950). A young, unemployed screenwriter, William Holden, is the "kept" man of a no-longer-fashionable silent-era film star, Gloria Swanson. Moral retribution is achieved by presenting Holden, the narrator, as already deceased and Swanson, his killer, as having lost her mind. George Stevens's A Place in the Sun (1951), based on Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, brought to the screen illicit sex and abortion, the latter a subject that had been scrupulously avoided.

Films presented their daring subject matter conservatively, without nudity or overt sexual acts. Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire (1950) was based on Tennessee Williams's successful Broadway play. Stanley (Marion Brando) confronts Blanche (Vivian Leigh) with her too-frequent association with men and then rapes her. Stanley's wife (Kim Hunter) leaves him because he is an uncivilized man, in her view.

Passionate feelings were implied rather than enacted. In Fred Zinneman's From Here to Eternity (1953), based on James Jones's acclaimed novel about the pre-World War II army, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr lie on the beach, clad in bathing suits, kissing passionately. Consummation of their passion is conveyed by the rising crescendo of pounding waves breaking on the beach. Other films commonly used cinematic devices such as soft focus or a long fade-out in place of overt sexual activity. In Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones (1954), Dorothy Dandridge expresses desire by cleaning Harry Belafonte's pants.

Actresses represented three distinct levels of sexuality. Marilyn Monroe on film was basically submissive, available, and vulnerable, but never acted in the nude. Little flesh is shown beyond a full view other legs in The Seven Year Itch (1955), a film about a middle-aged married man's sexual fantasy. Monroe was both available and appealing in musicals, such as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), which also starred Jane Russell and Betty Grable.

More sexually explicit was a French actress, Brigitte Bardot. She was serene, sexy, compliant, and famous for her pouting expression. In the film And God Created Woman (1956), directed by her husband Roger Vadim, she appeared nude. Other similarly appearing Italian actresses were Sophia Loren and Gina Lollabrigida.

The American star Grace Kelly was conservative, sexy, and sophisticated; she personified the third level. In films such as Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) and Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart, her own background of wealth and breeding merged with her screen portrayal.

American films, emerging from the confines of prior restraint, were still unsophisticated by European standards of adult content. In Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass (1961), Warren Beatty unsuccessfully pressures his high-school girl, Natalie Wood, to have a sexual relationship. The popular young singer Elvis Presley, in film, heralded an overt masculinity by his "sexual" gyrations. Dr. No (1962) features a promiscuous male character, James Bond, played by Sean Connery, who seduces a string of females in a tale of "free love" and violence. In Lolita (1962), directed by Stanley Kubrick, Sue Lyons plays Shelly Winters's underaged daughter who is courted by her middle-aged stepfather, James Mason.

Sexuality in American films steadily became more daring. Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (1963) celebrates life fully, especially the pleasures of eating and sexual lust. Elmer Gantry (1960), directed by Richard Brooks and starring Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons, features the "deflowering" of a female evangelist. Sidney Lumet's The Group (1966), based on Mary McCarthy's novel, starred Candice Bergen as a lesbian. Robert Mulligan's Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) explores the choices faced by an unmarried, pregnant woman played by Natalie Wood.

Shown in art theaters in America, European films were occasionally graphic but not exploitative of sexually taboo material. The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, in Virgin Spring (1959), horrified audiences by suggestion rather than explicit sexual violence. Based on a Swedish folk tale, the film depicts a Christian family that sends their virginal daughter some distance to a church, but two tramps, accompanied by a young boy, brutally rape and then murder her. The father discovers their guilt and slays the vagabonds, including the young boy. A virgin spring erupts at the site of the girl's murder as her father retrieves her body. He vows to build a church on the spot as atonement.

European films sought new horizons of restrained sexual realism. In the 1960 low-budget, high-profit-earning Greek film by Jules Dassin, Never on Sunday, Melina Mercouri plays a joyful and generous prostitute who is absolutely unrepentant and unpunished. Louis Malle, who was to acquire a reputation for his skillful handling of taboo subjects, presented a celebration of love over marriage in Les Amantes (1959). Recurrent extramarital "experiences" provoked no guilt in the woman.

European filmmakers viewed the aftermath of World War II from a sexual perspective. The facial response of a mother (Sophia Loren) and a daughter depicts the horror of rape in Two Women (1960), by Vittorio DeSica. The treatment was bitterly ironic and even philosophical, as the women are ravaged by Morrocan soldiers who were to have "liberated" them. Federico Felhni's La Dolce Vita (1960) features a humanistic Marcello Mastroianni who is too deeply affected by the elite decadence of post-World War II Rome to extricate himself. Alain Resnais, in Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), shows discreet nudity on the part of a racially mixed couple in bed who are committing adultery. Part of the film is presented in flashbacks, that is, the young French woman is seen humiliated by her fellow villagers after an affair with a member of the occupying German army during World War II; the Japanese man, in flashback, attempts to reconcile his memories of Hiroshima.

Sexually Liberated Modern Film

With Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1965), a polarization in censorship occurred between the Legion of Decency and Hollywood's MPAA. The Legion of Decency condemned the film for nudity, while the MPAA gave it a seal. In the film, a young, naked woman in a concentration camp is forced to be a concubine for various Nazi officers. In response to her fate, her surviving husband anesthetizes himself emotionally, even against a semiclad black woman who offers herself to him.

A new rating system, devised in 1966 and administrated by the Classification and Rating Administration, liberated modern film in the presentation of sexuality. There have been few modifications since. On the basis of the premise that not all movies are made for one audience, the Administration classifies a film in terms of sexuality, language, and violence to determine audience suitability.

I Am Curious, Yellow (1967), by Swedish director Vilgot Sjoman, illustrates the freedom allowed films in Europe. The film explores both the sexual and political exploitation of women. In it, a couple kisses each other's genitals as a form of greeting, and coitus is shown in close-up.

American filmmakers explored new directions in sexuality. In Paul Mazursky's Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969), a modern couple cannot go through with a mate-swapping session with friends. A young man, Dustin Hoffman, is seduced by an older woman, Anne Bancroft, in Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967). In John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy (1969), John Voight comes to New York to find his fortune as a male prostitute. Lacking customers, he finds he must expand his potential clientele to include males. Only a street person, Dustin Hoffman, becomes a real friend, but he soon dies. Americans were shocked but intrigued by this unaccustomed view of this segment of society. Sexual expression evolved to the extent that Ralph Bakshi, in Fritz the Cat (1972), created an explicit animation feature based on an underground comic strip.

Ultimately, Hollywood confronted the phenomenon of sexual mating across racial barriers. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), directed by Stanley Kramer, brought interracial coupling, with the sanction of marriage, to the screen. The all-star cast—Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn—lent their prestige, but the only physical involvement shown was a climactic kiss as the film closed. By 1990, Spike Lee's jungle Fever showed interracial coupling in the kind of detail that was in no way foreshadowed by Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

In the 1970s, European directors, such as Louis Malle, used sexuality to explore the human psyche. Incest, a subject almost never seen on the screen, is discreetly featured in Murmur of the Heart (1971). The film asserts that the boy seduced by his mother remains undamaged. In WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), Dusan Makavejev uses the theories of Wilhelm Reich to explore the political consequences of sexual freedom and repression. A film that disturbed some because of its graphic depiction of a sadistic rape was Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1972), based on the Anthony Burgess novel. The brutality and immorality of young Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his hoods are equated with the brutal repression of an overbearing and corrupt government.

Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972) features sadomasochism. An older man, Marlon Brando, enters into an intense sexual relationship with a young woman who willingly submits to his every whim, including anal intercourse. The man confesses that his disdain and cruelty are based on past cruelty known to and inflicted on him. At the point where he is able to "accept" her love, she shoots him.

American films explored sexual themes with serious intent. Mike Nichols's Carnal Knowledge (1972) frankly examines two men's sexual attitudes as they reminisce over the experiences of their formative years. Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1972) reveals a mild-mannered couple's hidden capacity for violence—she (Susan George) in a masochistic response to rape, he (Dustin Hoffman) in a sadistic series of revenge murders. This film violated all Hollywood mores that the victim never was to enjoy rape.

Alternate life-styles came under realistic scrutiny. William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) depicted the seamier side of male homosexuality by starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop who pursues a violent killer of gays. Paul Mazursky's Willie and Phil (1980) features two men who turn to each other for emotional and physical solace when both have been spurned by the same woman. The film is an update of Truffaut's long-popular classic, Jules and Jim (1961). In Torch Song Trilogy (1988), Paul Bogart translated Harvey Fierstein's Broadway play into a film starring Fierstein as well as Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick. The film developed a humorous spoof, which featured classic homosexual self-deprecating wit, into a serious plea for tolerance. Taxi Zum Klo (1981), a German film, both explicit and ardent, by Frank Rapploh, is the strongly autobiographical recounting of the filmmaker's homosexuality. The wide reception of Edouard Molinaro's La Cage aux Folks (1978) prompted the production of sequels.

Sexuality motivated by adventure or survival was portrayed with greater realism on screen. In Paul Schrader's American Gigolo (1980), Richard Gere seeks rich female clients. The self-confident male prostitute, in achieving the American dream, recognizes that at times he needs to be available to other males. Nicholas Roeg's Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980) depicts the extensive sexual activity of a married couple, both together and with other partners. A Dutch film, Spetters (1980) by Paul Verhoeven, follows, in an explicit fashion, the sexual adventures of six people. An Australian film by Bruce Beresford, The Getting of Wisdom (1985), features implicit lesbianism when a girl from a remote region of Australia seeks acceptance from her peers at school. Orphans growing up in Bombay and turning to drugs, prostitution, and violence in their survival attempts: Saalom Bombay (1988) by Mira Nair dramatizes the seamier side of social reality. Peter Greenaway in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1990) equates the British government with sexual humiliation and cannabalism. The film Henry and June (1990), directed by Philip Kaufman, is based on Henry Miller's erotic autobiography and depicts voyeurism, partner swapping, and both hetero- and homosexuality.

In Hollywood, many taboos were progressively stripped away. Moving toward greater realism, producers increasingly became dependent on the star and the subject matter to attract audiences. Lower-cost films with the right star and subject could be highly profitable. European film-makers, especially the French, indulged in more nudity than did American filmmakers who had incorporated sexuality into serious cinema. There was no turning away from freedom for sexual expression as the 20th century drew to a close.

American films attained a sophistication in featuring psychosexual themes. The low-budget film, Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), by Steven Soderbergh, depicts anxiety over sexual permissiveness. The protagonist, played by James Spader, videotapes various women relating, in great detail, their early sexual experiences. From them, he finds sexual release in masturbation, until the camera is turned on him and he is able to break out of his cocoon.

Although significant progress has been made toward portraying sexuality with candor on screen, some filmmakers prefer to rework old stereotypes. Fatal Attraction (1987) perpetuates the sadomasochistic myth of a vamp. Glenn Close portrays an independent, career-minded woman who is in reality sick, lonely, perverted, and obsessed with possessing a married man at the cost of destroying a family. In Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman (1990), Julia Roberts portrays a modern "flapper," now a prostitute, whose business arrangement with a mogul develops into a proposal of marriage.

The Future

Contemporary filmmakers enjoy freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment but fall short of portraying social realism. Underrepresented groups (e.g., women and minorities) charge that filmmakers portray sexuality stereotypically. Some accused Steven Spielberg of regressive stereotyping in The Color Purple (1985). No similar charge was credibly made against Spike Lee for Do the Right Thing (1989).

Freedom from sexual stereotyping may be achieved in films when diverse groups are economically able to produce and direct films based on their own experiences. Given the minimum cost of $4 million per film, economic reality is the new censor. Diversity among producers and directors does not ensure a progressive view of sexuality, but it may foster one.

(The author gratefully acknowledges her debt to the following: Mary K. Delmont, Kevin Filipski, Gerald Wild, and the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House.)


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Geraldine E. Bard


Early-20th-century sex researchers focused on female orgasm as a major topic. Their questioners sought interviews with female subjects concerning their orgasmic response patterns. Small numbers of these respondents reported multiorgasmic patterns. In 1929, for example, G.V. Hamilton reported that five of his 100 female subjects were "repeaters," that is, they had multiple orgasms. He said that they reported anywhere from two or three to a score or more orgasms to the man's one. Lewis Terman, in 1938, reported that 96 of his sample of 792 women were typically multiorgasmic. This was 12.6 percent of those responding. Multiorgasm was not closely correlated to the reported marital happiness of respondents.

Next, chronologically, came the studies of Kinsey and his associates in 1948 and 1953. It is not always clear whether the Kinsey data on multiorgasm resulted from interview or direct observation. Kinsey made it clear that "orgasm may occur without the emission of semen" in men, thus clearly differentiating orgasm from ejaculation. He found that 55.5 percent of his preadolescent male sample was multiorgasmic and explained that this capacity was lost rapidly; by age 15, only 20 percent were still multiorgasmic. Less than 10 percent of the males were multiorgasmic between the ages of 25 and 60. Even though Kinsey clearly distinguishes between ejaculation and orgasm, he apparently used the terms synonymously, along with "climax," in describing the high frequency of male sexual outlet.

Kinsey reported that 14 percent of his female sample of 5,940 subjects "regularly responded with multiple orgasm" in human coitus. He made a comparison of multiple orgasm in females and males, reporting about 15 percent of each to be multiorgasmic at ages 15 to 20. From ages 25 to 60, females remained at the 15-percent level, with 5 percent more typical of the males for this 40-year period. Finally, Kinsey emphasized that only small percentages (5 percent-15 percent) of adult males and females regularly experience multiorgasm in the social context of either petting or coitus.

Masters and Johnson further documented the multiorgasmic capacity of both females and males. In their interviews of multiorgasmic females following the laboratory experience, the respondents reported that they found the subsequent orgasms more subjectively pleasurable than the initial one. These continuous orgasmic experiences contrasted with male subjective reports that the discrete orgasms following the initial orgasm and ejaculation were less pleasurable. Masters and Johnson indicated that many women were unsatisfied with one orgasm and desired multiorgasms for full satisfaction.

Since that time, others have continued to report multiorgasms in various studies. Robbins and Jensen studied multiple orgasm in men at the Center for Marital and Sexual Studies, in Long Beach, California. Individuals associated with the laboratory continued to do research on the topic, on the basis of a sample of 751 subjects, 469 females and 282 males, ranging in age from 18 to 70. The study did not rely on verbal reports of orgasm but monitored it with a Beckman R411 dynograph. Measurement of orgasm involved monitoring of capillary blood flow in various parts of the body, as well as heartbeat, heart rate, respiration, galvanic skin response, and pelvic contractions; the latter was monitored in the anus, vagina, and uterus.

Though the parameters of change varied with the subject, all showed change at orgasm, and the pattern of individual function was established for each subject. These patterns could not be differentiated by sex. During orgasm, the heart rate, which had been at a baseline of approximately 70 beats per minute, rises to approximately 120–130 beats per minute at orgasm for females and to 150–160 beats per minute for males. The subject then returns to a normal resting state. This is called a discrete orgasm. Physical condition and drugs are significant factors in wide variations of cardiac data.

In another pattern, the heart rate starts at a baseline of 70 beats per minute and reaches a peak, but rather than returning to the baseline, it remains high, dropping only 10 to 20 beats between orgasms in a series of continuous orgasms. A third pattern is a combination of the first two, usually with one or two discrete orgasms taking place before what Hartman and Fithian call "continuous orgasms" occur. The same multipleorgasm patterns are seen for both males and females.

In a control study by Hartman and Fithian, both orgasmic and multiorgasmic women were asked to rate their orgasmic intensity on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being least intense and 10 most intense. These evaluations were then correlated with physiological measurements. Multiply orgasmic women had more ratings in the 8–10 range than did the singly orgasmic women, who reported a less intense orgasm. This corresponded with their physiological response as measured by the parameters listed above.

The time to orgasm was markedly different for the two groups, with singly orgasmic women taking an average of 27 minutes to reach an orgasm, whereas the multiply orgasmic women averaged only 8 minutes. Multiply orgasmic women took only 1 to 2 minutes, on average, to reach a second orgasm. Subsequent orgasms tended to take less time, and 30-second intervals between orgasms were not uncommon; a few instances of 15-second intervals between orgasms were recorded. The greatest number of multiple orgasms recorded in the laboratory was 134 in an hour for a female and 16 for a male.

Dunn and Trost interviewed 21 multiply orgasmic men. Their primary group included 13 men who were always multiply orgasmic, and secondarily eight men who became multiorgasmic after age 35. The men attributed most of their multiorgasmic experience to genetic or fortuitous circumstances and rarely to deliberately planned learning. Dunn's and Trost's definition of multiple orgasm in males is similar to that at the Center, where orgasm and ejaculation are regarded as two separate phenomena. To be considered multiply orgasmic, a male must have two or more orgasms within an hour. The Dunn and Trost study differed from the Hartman and Fithian studies, which reported that in some instances the men could completely lose their erection and start over. In the Dunn and Trost sample, subjects reported a high state of arousal between orgasms.

Hartman and Fithian reported that several of their subjects had learned how to have multiple orgasms as adults by following up on an experience in which they had orgasm without ejaculation. They have concluded from their own studies and as a result of their teaching that potentially all males who are orgasmic can probably, with training and practice, become multiorgasmic; they hold the same to be true for women. Many may not want to be multiorgasmic, since time itself is always a factor in multiple orgasms. They simply take longer.


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Campbell, B., W. Hartman, M. Fithian, and I. Campbell. Polygraphic Survey of the Human Sexual Response. The Physiologist, Vol. 18 (1975), p. 154.

Clifford, R. Subjective Sexual Experience in College Women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 7 (1978), pp. 183-97.

Dunn, M.E., and J.E. Trost. Male Multiple Orgasms: A Descriptive Study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 18 (1989), pp. 377-87.

Hartman, W.E., and M.A. Fithian. Any Man Can. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984.

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William E. Hartman
Marilyn A. Fithian


Music has a long association with sex. Many kinds of musical instruments had their origin in sexual symbols or were taken as representative of the genitals. For example, the flute is not only symbolic of the penis, but the penis itself is often called the one-eyed flute. In New Guinea, among some of the tribes in which initiation involves oral-genital sex between boys and older men, oral sex is called playing the flute. Some instruments in the past have in fact been known as love instruments, such as the viola d' amore, which was extensively used in the baroque and postbaroque periods, especially by Antonio Vivaldi.

Music itself has sexual or romantic connotations, but for the most part responses vary by culture and individual, and what is romantic or sexual to one person might not be so to another. This, however, is not the case with lyrics, and there is a long tradition of sexually oriented lyrics. Though we lack the melody, erotic lyrics from the Greco-Roman period have survived. In the High Middle Ages, the verses of the wandering singers were often quite bawdy, with overt sexual references not uncommon. The love lyrics of the troubadours brought courtly love to Europe and were a major factor in the development of romantic love. Not all songs dealt with heterosexual love, however. A 14th-century Florentine ordinance, for example, prohibited the singing of "sodomitical songs."

With the development of musical notation and the appearance of the printing press at the end of the medieval period, dissemination of lyrics and music took place at a more rapid pace. Often, music was used to convey a negative message about sexuality, as did an English ballad of the 16th century entitled "Of the Horrible and Woefull Destruction of Sodom and Gomorra," which was sung to the Tune of the Nine Muses.

Sexual enticement was certainly a major theme of opera, especially after Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (1786). Sometimes the sexuality had a double-edged meaning, since female roles were usually sung by males until well into the 19th century. Most of these males had been castrated as youths to preserve their high range, and many castrati, as they were called, achieved great popularity. One of the most famous was Carlo Broschi (1705–1782), best known by his pseudonym, Farinelli, who exercised great influence on Philip V of Spain and for many years sang nightly for that monarch. Perhaps it was the presence of castrati that led to so much role switching in opera; when women appeared in force on the operatic stage, many of them took over the cross-dressing roles, and they dominate such roles in the modern performances of classic operas.

Sex in many operas is rather explicit. Carnal love is a major theme of many of Richard Wagner's operas, especially Tristan and Isolde, and it continued to be a tradition in German opera with Richard Strauss (Don Juan and Salome). Homosexuality and lesbianism have also been portrayed in opera, sometimes discreetly, as in the work of Benjamin Britten, and sometimes more openly, as in Alban Berg's opera Lulu, based on a play by Frank Wedekind. The opera portrays a lesbian countess who belongs to an exclusive society of women artists where she dresses in male costume. The opera had a posthumous premier in 1937, but its third act, with the lesbian scene, was suppressed by Berg's widow and not performed until 1979.

The ability of music both to convey and to arouse emotions was probably nowhere better illustrated than in silent movies, which were usually accompanied by an orchestra in the more expensive theaters or by a pianist or organist in the less expensive ones. As the musical accompaniment to the silent films became more or less standardized, some kinds of music came to be regarded as more sexual than others, since they were played during the more intimate scenes. As movies entered the age of sound at the end of the 1920s, music continued to play a particularly strong role in conveying sexuality, especially when actual sexual scenes could not be portrayed on the screen.

It was in the popular songs, however, where sexuality was most evident. Sexually oriented songs were a staple of the English music hall and American vaudeville, but the same kind of standardization that appeared in movie music appeared in popular lyrics, as illustrated by the work of the professional songwriters centered in New York and collectively styled Tin Pan Alley during the development of the recording industry. Cole Porter, in particular, came to be known for sexual themes in his music.

Outside the mainstream of popular songs were numerous bawdy songs, many of which were collected and recorded by Oscar Brand in a series called Bawdy Songs and Back Room Ballads (1955) and periodically rereleased. Such folk songs as "Roll Me Over in the Clover" and "The Money Rolls In" are widely known and exist in variant versions, and some of them date from Elizabethan England, where bawdy songs were a standard. Some well-known literary figures are known to have written bawdy songs, which include Rudyard Kipling's "The Bastard King of England" and Mark Twain's "The Contest." One of the earliest of such bawdy writers was the medieval poet François Villon (1431–?), who wrote lyrics describing his girlfriend, the prostitute Margo, who, after satisfying her customers and making her living, turned to Villon and "mounted" him, to "spare love's fruit."

I groan, squashed beneath her weight —
This lechery of hers will ruin me,
In this brothel where we ply our trade.
Prostitution in fact has a long connection with music. This linkage continued in the 20th century with the spread of jazz from the brothels of Storyville, in New Orleans, to mainstream America. Biographies of the early jazz musicians, such as Ferdinand Joseph (Jelly Roll) Morton and Louis Armstrong, often show them getting their start as musicians in a brothel. Often folk songs that once existed only in a rural oral tradition were suppressed and sometimes lost because either the situations depicted or their language were not considered proper by later generations.

Musicians themselves—ranging from concert-hall figures such as Chopin to popular singers such as Frank Sinatra—have often become sex symbols. Sinatra gained his early reputation because of his appeal to hordes of teenage girls. Both overtly sexual lyrics and sexual gestures were limited in the United States and Europe, however, because of problems of censorship, which began to be relaxed in the 1950s. What were once regarded as obscene gestures broke through before more overtly sexual lyrics did. A key figure in the 1950s breakthrough of the portrayal of more overt sexuality was Elvis Presley, nicknamed "the pelvis." He achieved stardom on the Milton Berle show, where he sang a scorching bump-and-grind version of "Hound Dog." Network television censors were horrified. When he appeared on the Ed Sullivan program, the cameras were forbidden to show him below the waist, and when he appeared on the Steve Alien show, he was forced to stand still.

Originally, rock—a fusion of black rhythm and blues, gospel, doowop harmony singing, white rockabilly, and other elements—was an underground music until Presley became well-known, and much of it was less subject to censorship than the more established swing or jazz. Hints of homosexuality even appeared in the lyrics of Richard Penniman (Little Richard), who appeared on stage wearing mascara and a high, effeminate pompadour.

In the 1960s, rock and roll broadened out into rock, incorporating such elements as electrified quasi-folk music, political protest songs, and complex psychedelic constructions. Though the term rock and roll itself is a euphemism for sexual intercourse, it also became a form of social commentary. The decade was dominated by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, both of which groups included sexual themes in their lyrics. The Beatles', "A Day in the Life" was kept off many radio stations because of the phrase "I'd love to turn you on." When the Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, they were forced to change the lyrics of their song "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together." Generally, the Rolling Stones were more specific than the Beatles, and their songs included references to homosexual prostitution in "When the Whip Comes Down" and to oral sex in "Honky Tonk Women." Perhaps the height was reached with their "Cocksucker Blues," which Decca refused to release but which became popular through bootleg recordings. Jim Morrison of the Doors opened up another previously taboo subject, anal intercourse, in 1968, when he proclaimed in song, "I'm a Backdoor Man."

Gender blending was an important element of glitter rock, in which performers set the pace. Most notable were the New York Dolls, who appeared in drag and female makeup. Musical styles changed rapidly in the 1980s, and for a time disco music was dominant. Disco was strongly associated with the gay culture in New York, and songs such as "Macho Man" and "YMCA" emphasized a growing relaxation with regard to sexual content in lyrics. Each new wave of popular singers became increasingly explicit. Punk rock, based on the rock and roll of the fifties but with more explicit lyrics, was for a time an underground movement, until it reached Britain in 1976. Groups such as the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks emerged, singing ever more explicitly sexual songs.

Increasingly for a time in the 1980s, androgyny was dominant, with Boy George (who appeared in drag) and Culture Club achieving widespread commercial success. This trend continued into the 1990s with the androgynous Michael Jackson. Other groups, such as Salt and Pepper, an all-woman rap group, included sexual themes in their songs, as did 2 Live Crew, which, among other things, had some of its lyrics banned in Florida and became the subject of a discussion by the U.S. vice president.

Dan Quayle was not the only political figure involved in the backlash against some of the lyrics of songs that not only were sexually explicit but also carried subversive messages about war, racism, and drugs. Some were misogynistic and racist. Ice Cube, for example, sang about hating Koreans. In 1985 President Ronald Reagan charged that record companies glorified drugs, violence, and perversity. President Bush also weighed in with a condemnation. One result was the foundation of the Parents Music Resource Center in the 1980s which attempted, often successfully, to persuade record companies to put warning stickers on albums and singles with sexually explicit lyrics.

As popular music opened up, so did the Broad-way stage musical. What had simply been hinted at in Anita Loos's musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds" in the 1920s became more overt in musicals about "The Best Little Whore House in Texas" and "La Cage aux Folles," about gay cross-dressers.

An article such as this can do little more than offer an overview. What seems clear, however, is that sex, whether explicit or implicit, has been a dominant theme in music. Often, the forces of censorship have repressed the overtly sexual, but the songs continued to exist through an underground network, to be resurrected for a wider audience later, as Oscar Brand's work shows. Lyrics emphasize the sexual connotation of music and generalize it more effectively than symphonic music can, but this observation simply means that classical music is more individualized and subjective. There is no doubt that music of all types is a sexual stimulant, but what is sexual is both culturally and individually determined.


Apel, W. Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1969.

Brand, O., ed. Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads. New York: Grove Press, 1960.

Cray, E., ed. The Erotic Muse. 2nd ed. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1992.

Lawrence, D.H. Making Love to Music. In H.T. Moore, ed., Sex, Literature and Censorship. New York: Twayne, 1953.

Legman, G. The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.

Longstreet, S. The Real Jazz Old and New. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1956.

Reeves, J., ed. The Idiom of the People: English Traditional Verse. Edited with an Introduction and Notes from the Manuscripts of Cecil J. Sharp. New York: W.W. Norton, 1965.

Sachs, C. The History of Musical Instruments. New York: Norton, 1937.

Salisbury, J.E. Sex in the Middle Ages. New York: Garland, 1991.

Whicher, G.F. The Goliard Poets. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1949.

Vern L. Bullough

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