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When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, Adolf Sellman, a spokesman for the West German Morality League, reported that all filth (i.e., pornography, homosexuality) and trash vanished from the public domain, that prostitution was banished, and that a correct population policy (i.e., racial purity) was established. At first, this was simply an official policy and there was no change in the civil penal code until 1935, when conduct that was contrary to popular sentiment was punished even though there was no specific applicable law. Everything that respectable citizens deemed sexually improper, if not abnormal, and all that conflicted with general average notions of morality could now be punished by a range of penalties, which included imprisonment, internment in a concentration camp, and execution.

The Nazis looked back on the Weimar republic, the Germany immediately preceding the Nazi takeover, as a society that had granted equality of status to women contrary to their natural biology and thus had estranged them from their function as mothers and guardians of the home. The result, the Nazis and their conservative allies had said, was destruction of the family, loss of respect for parents by children, growing assertiveness among women, and vast growth in homosexuality and prostitution, so much so that Berlin, in their eyes, had become the sinful Gomorrah of a degenerate civilization.

Hitler, in his Mein Kampf, had remedies for all these ills. He sought to combat prostitution by promoting early marriage, particularly for the man. He advocated the production of more children by racially pure couples, since marriage could not be an end in itself but had to serve the goal of multiplication and preservation of the race. Through sterilization and ruthless segregation, he wanted to prevent the sick or hereditarily disabled from reproducing; in his mind, the right of personal freedom receded before the duty to preserve the race. He felt that youthful urges toward sex could be overcome by physical education and that the "filth" existing in the theater, art, literature, movies, and press had to be eliminated by censorship and outright repression.

Reality often differed from such ideals, and critics have often pointed out that there were two levels of morality, one for the masses and one for the elite; the Nazi hierarchy felt that they were the elite. Individuals such as Joseph Goebbels poked fun at bourgeois virtues and claimed to abominate moral priggishness. Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Storm Troopers, was an avowed and open homosexual, but only when he seemed dangerous to Hitler was he eliminated.

Still, the official ideal was one of sexual restraint. Sex education emphasized self-denial, self-control, will power, and discipline. There was, however, a worry that segregated male and female groups might lead to homosexuality, and so "harmless" contacts between adolescent girls and boys were encouraged.

Conviction for homosexual behavior between adults resulted in six months imprisonment, after which many were then sent to concentration camps. The purpose of the concentration camp was to compel the homosexuals to work methodically and to prevent them from showing any kind of feminine weakness in the belief that they would eventually recover from their homosexuality. It is estimated that up to 50,000—the number of men known to have been convicted of homosexual activity—were sent to such camps, where they had to wear a pink triangle. A decree of 1935 provided for the compulsory sterilization (i.e., castration) of homosexuals (as well as epileptics, schizophrenics, and other "degenerates"), but many of those convicted were not sterilized. After 1942, conviction for a homosexual act could lead to the death penalty, and this penalty was strongly enforced in the armed forces, where offenders were generally shot. It is impossible to know how many homosexuals were killed because of their homosexuality or how many actually were sent to concentration camps, since records have disappeared and many homosexuals were sent to the camps without any legal proceedings. In the camps, it was probably those who seemed "helplessly" homosexual who were executed. A good estimate of the homosexuals who were executed or who died in concentration camps is that the number amounted to tens of thousands. The legal prohibitions against homosexuality were not extended to females, with the result that lesbianism theoretically was not punished, although in reality some lesbians were punished under the general morality clause. Interestingly, the Nazis added a provision to the Code of Criminal Procedure that gave the public prosecutor the discretion not to prosecute an alleged offender who had been the object of blackmail.

Gender discrimination was widespread in Nazi Germany, and the numbers of women in higher education decreased radically. Quotas of approximately 10 percent of the slots were set for females who sought higher education. Even at the elementary levels, girls were encouraged to study domestic science rather than the more demanding arts or sciences. Physical exercise was, however, emphasized. Most of the women's organizations were headed by men or were adjuncts of men's organizations. For those whom the Nazis regarded as elite women, however, the Women's Academy of "Wisdom and Culture was established. It was limited to blue-eyed women who had superior intellectual gifts as well as grace of mind and body. These women were to serve as wives for the elite of the Nazi regime, and they were expected to choose a racially worthy spouse from the leadership corps of the party or government.

With their ideas of "race" mixing, which defined any non-German as belonging to a different race, the Nazis were very much concerned about the children being born to women in conquered areas, particularly in the Slavic areas. Though the German authorities tried to emphasize that intercourse between German soldiers and female foreign workers was both unworthy and destructive of military potential owing to disease, they were unable to enforce their views. Moreover, the shortage of rubber in Germany was such that toward the end of the war the authorities could not give condoms out to German soldiers; though spermicides were recommended and tried, they were not particularly effective without condoms. Heinrich Himmler's elite SS troops, however, were categorically forbidden to have intercourse with women of foreign blood, and after 1941 all such offenses had to be reported to him personally. Even earlier, Himmler had demanded that any incidence of homosexuality in the SS be reported to him. Those who were found to be homosexual were to be stripped of their rank, expelled, and imprisoned, after which they were to be taken to a concentration camp "and there shot while attempting to escape."

The Nazis were particularly virulent in their condemnation of sex with Jews. Every effort was made to make this unacceptable. Syphilis, long known as the French disease, was called the Jewish disease by the Nazis. Intercourse with Jews was regarded as miscegenation and punishable even before mass numbers of Jews were sent to concentration camps. The Nazis also carried out sterilization experiments on Jews in some camps. Various plants, such as Caladium seguinum, were given to subjects to see if they caused sterility. Women were examined to see how long they menstruated under the camp diets. Some women were allowed "to volunteer" for brothel services, although non-Germans could serve only other non-Germans.

Pimps who were arrested were sent to concentration camps but prostitutes were not, in spite of the denunciation of them. In fact, Reinhard Heydrich, who was head of the SS Security Service, had established the Salon Kitty, in Berlin, as a high-class brothel for important officials. Rooms were wired to see if any secrets were given out. By 1939, medically supervised brothels were allowed throughout Nazi-controlled territories, and there was an attempt to register prostitutes. Experiments were also carried out in some brothels, perhaps with Himmler's consent. Prostitutes at a brothel in Stuttgart, for example, were instructed to preserve semen-filled sheaths after each act of intercourse, and these were then collected in an attempt to find a substitute for plasma in blood transfusions. Little else is known about the experiment, however. Most of the prostitutes were volunteers and in theory could resign or move on at any time.

One of the more ironic contradictions of the Nazis is that they claimed on their ascendancy to power to be restoring old-fashioned family virtues. Though they did officially eliminate pornography, the total effect of their administration was to establish one of the most obscene regimes in human history.


Bleuel, H.P. Sexual Society in Nazi Germany. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1973.

Heger, H. The Men with the Pink Triangle. Boston: Alyson, 1980.

Herzer, M. Nazis, Psychiatrists, and Gays. Cabirion, Vol. 12 (1985), pp. 1-5.

Lautman, R. The Pink Triangle, Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 6 (1980), pp. 141-60.

Mosse, G.L. Nazi Culture. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1966.

Plant, R. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1986.

Vern L. Bullough


Is Nudism a Sexual Phenomenon?

Athletic contests in ancient Greece are perhaps the earliest recorded instances of conscious nudism. With emphasis on health and absence of sensuality the Greeks had their young athletes participate nude in various events, typically the forerunners of modern track and field competitions. They marched nude in processions as well as ate and sang as part of their athletic celebrations.

Nudity then more or less disappeared from the pages of history, although medieval Europeans bathed together in the nude for a time and often slept in the nude. There were also nude protesters, such as the legendary Lady Godiva. The first organized modern nudist park was founded in Germany in 1903—the same year as the Wright brothers' first airplane flight in America. The park grew out of an idea by Richard Ungewitter, who early in 1903 had published a 104-page book advocating that people of both sexes associate together totally nude. Paul Zimmermann followed through by opening the world's first nudist park, near Klingberg, Germany, in 1903. It might more accurately have been called a nude health resort, since it had little in common with modern nudist parks except the absence of clothing. Strict health rules prevailed, including prohibitions against meat, alcohol, and smoking. Most notable was the requirement that all guests arise early each morning for two hours of calisthenics under the supervision of a professional instructor.

In spite of the rigid restrictions, once awareness of nudist activities became public legal efforts were made to control the situation both in England and America. Enactment and enforcement of obscenity laws and ordinances preoccupied reformers, legislators, keepers of the morals, and law enforcement officials.

Still, organized nudism in Germany had an estimated active membership of 50,000 by the mid-1920s, and from Germany it spread elsewhere. Its establishment in the United States took place formally in 1929, when a German immigrant, Kurt Barthel, led a group of three experienced, newly arrived German couples on a nudist outing on Labor Day of that year. The outing took place on the Hudson River near New York City, where the property owner approved of such activity taking place.

Nudist parks were established in New Jersey, California, and Indiana in the early 1930s and are still in operation. Isley Boone, a minister in New Jersey; Hobart Grassey in California; and Alois Knapp, an attorney in Chicago provided the leadership in establishing the three parks and in publicizing and spreading the nudist idea. Nudist publications, originating in the 1930s, continue to exist, as does the major national organization established at that time, the American Sunbathing Association.

Nudist parks traditionally have offered meager facilities. Just the freedom to be nude attracts many adherents. In recent years, however, some parks have gone upscale. Some have mobile home facilities, while others have organized condominium associations. Some have all the facilities a popular nonnudist recreational club would provide (e.g., swimming, tennis, volleyball, hiking, basketball, shuffleboard, and table tennis). Some nudists organize themselves into "travel clubs." They neither own nor rent property but visit established nudist facilities regularly, as a group, by prearrangement.

Self-imposed, ultra-conservative rules have been the means by which nudism has survived and thrived. The need to exercise control from within or be closed down by outside authorities seemingly dominated nudist leadership in establishing and enforcing strict rules for much of the movement's history. The rules generally included the following:

1. No alcohol.

2. No body contact—nude dancing is forbidden even between spouses.

3. No photography unless the subject consents.

4. Application for membership is carefully screened, particularly in the case of single men.

5. Married persons are accepted as couples only.

6. Anyone engaging in improper conduct is removed immediately.

7. Members should follow the same general behavioral standards adhered to in nonnudist social or recreational settings.

In recent years, there has been a relaxation of some of these rules in some nudist parks. Beer and wine are sold in a number of facilities, and there is a lessening of the no-touch regulations.

Numerous studies of the social characteristics of practicing nudists have been conducted in the United States since 1932, when Frances and Mason Merrill wrote a book on the subject. Hartman, Fithian, and Johnson summarized the results of these studies first in 1970, and then updated their work in 1992. Some findings:

1. Religion—Johnson's research in the late 1940s indicated nudists were 91 percent Christian (77 percent Protestant and 14 percent Roman Catholic), when at the time Protestants made up 55 percent of the population in the United States and Roman Catholics 34 percent. By 1964, the Hartman-Fithian-Johnson study (n=1,388) found only 43 percent of nudists holding church membership and 55 percent with no affiliation. Pre-1960 nudist research showed much higher nudist religious affiliation. Still, it is common for non-denominational religious services to be conducted in the parks on Sunday, and many religious professionals are members.

2. Personality—Several studies involved asking nudists to complete an in-depth personality test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Results indicated very little psychopathology among nudists generally and nudist women in particular. Nudists, if personality tests are any indicator, are normal men and women.

3. Marital Status—Typically, 75 percent to 80 percent of nudists were married. The remainder were single, divorced, or widowed.

4. Education—Generally, nudists have been found to be above the U.S. average in completing grade school, high school, and college. In 1960, nudists were two to two and a half times more likely to complete high school and college than the U.S. population.

5. Introduction to nudism—Nudist literature was by far the most frequent means of introducing interested persons to nudism (over 40 percent). Friends and spouses were the other major sources.

6. Age—Analyzing the ages of nudists showed those below age 30 to be underrepresented when compared to the general population (15 percent to 20 percent) and those in their thirties and forties to be overrepresented (55 percent to 60 percent). Some 15 percent are in their fifties, and less than 10 percent were over 60.

7. Social Class—The class status of nudists tends more to the upper end of the scale than the lower. When nudists were evaluated on an expanded Hollingshead Index of Social Class Position, there were five times as many nudists in Hollingshead's class 1 than in the population Hollingshead used to construct his scale, twice as many nudists in classes 2 and 3, two-fifths as many in class 4, and one-quarter as many in class 5.

Is Nudism a Sexual Phenomenon?

Nudists do not believe nudism is a sexual phenomenon, although Americans generally think it is. For nudism to have existed in America for as long as it has, nudists' sexual conduct could not have deviated significantly from the norms or it would have suffered more attacks than it has. Still, both male and female nudists report that nudist participation increased their frequency of sexual relations, although they added that it did not increase their desire for participation in extramarital relations. Most nudists reported "rarely" or "never" being asked to participate in "swinging" activities. Most nudists say they were never involved in such activities.

Nudist marriages, in general, appear happy, possibly because of the agreement to practice such a controversial life-style in the first place. Nudist women in particular reported favorably on the benefits of nudist practices for their husbands and children. Divorced nudists typically noted that nudism was practiced before and after their divorce and was not a factor in it. Nonnudist psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors who have been invited to nudist parks to observe the children, generally report that nudist children are happy, well-adjusted youngsters.

The factors reported for becoming a nudist were relaxation, freedom from clothing, freedom from sickness or disease, all-over tan, enjoyment of fresh air, and social congeniality. Rarely was there evidence that negative factors such as hostility, rebellion, and nonconformity were motivations toward nudity. Factors stated for continuing to be a nudist were physical and mental health, relaxation, freedom from clothes, and friends. Curiosity attracted some newcomers, but other interests have to appear if one is to continue to visit nudist parks.

Studies of nudist dropouts suggest that negative feelings about nudism are not the reason they no longer participate. Instead, moving out of the area, lack of spare time, and distance from nudist parks were the main reasons for discontinuing membership. Many former nudist group members continued to practice nudity at home or in the privacy of their backyard. Nudist parks welcome law enforcement personnel as members or guests and only rarely need assistance in dealing with troublemakers.

Legislators increasingly have taken a hands-off approach, so that social nudism continues to exist in America virtually unchanged, from a legal standpoint, as it has for 60 years. Some local ordinances and individuals, however, cause problems for specific parks. Hartman, Fithian, and Johnson, as a result of their research, suggest that there is therapeutic value in nudism and have suggested that individuals violating laws regarding voyeurism and exposure might well be treated in a nudist setting.

Nudists contend that the removal of clothing brings about greater honesty between people, since clothing produces a false mystique about the body. Nudity, they argue, creates greater equality between the sexes and weakens sexual segregation and discrimination. Research by Story, Vingerhoets, and Bunk tends to support such claims.

Though they are nonnudists themselves, Hartman and Fithian felt, following their original studies on nudism, that nudism might be a potential tool in helping people work through some of the problems they had with self-concept and body imagery. As a result, they conducted two nude marathon counseling sessions in conjunction with Bindrim, and held a third session without him. A number of the participants' problems were successfully addressed. For example, one man, who was impotent, reported that "his penis was too small." The group members pointed out that his penis was as large as, and in fact larger than, those of other members of the group. This greatly enhanced his self-concept and feelings about himself and might have been a factor in his later regaining his potency.

Bindrim continued the use of nudity in group psychotherapy with more than 7,000 clients. A number of other therapists have utilized nudist faculties as the ideal setting for group psychotherapy. Wheatley compared nude psychotherapy groups with traditional clothed groups and reported that nude marathon regression therapy facilitates more significant long-term changes than the traditional encounter marathons analyzed. The subject of nudity as a therapeutic catalyst, however, deserves more investigation before any final conclusions are possible.


Bindrim, P. Aqua-energetics. In R.J. Corsini, ed., Handbook of Innovative Therapies. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1981.

Casler, L. Some Sociopsychological Observations in a Nudist Camp: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 64 (1964), pp. 307-23.

Goodson, A. Therapy, Nudity and Joy. Los Angeles: Elysium Growth Press, 1991.

Hartman, W.E., and M. Fithian. Enhancing Sexuality Through Nudism. In H. Otto, ed., New Sexuality. Palo Alto, Calif.: Science and Behavior Books, 1991.

Hartman, W.E., M. Fithian, and D. Johnson. Nudist Society. New York: Crown, 1970; revised by I. Bancroft. Los Angeles: Elysium Growth Press, 1992.

Johnson, D. The Nudists. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1959.

Merrill, F., and M. Merrill. Nudism Comes to America. New York: Knopf, 1932.

Story, M. Comparisons of Body Self-Concept Between Social Nudists and Non Nudists. Journal of Psychology, Vol. 118 (Sept. 1984), pp. 99-112.

Vingerhoets, A., and B. Bunk. Attitudes Toward Nudist and Public Beaches: Some Evidence of Dissonance Reduction and Gender Differences. Journal of Leisure Research, Vol. 23 (May 1987), pp. 11-21.

Wheatley, P. Effect of Nude Marathon Regression Therapy on Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Change in Self-selected Subjects: Psychological Nudism or Psychic Striptease? Ph.D. Diss., California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles, 1974.

William E. Hartman
Marilyn A. Fithian


The word "nymphomania" is derived from the Greek and literally means "bride madness." The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "a feminine disease characterized by morbid and uncontrollable sexual desire." Setting the disease issue aside, most definitions of nymphomania include the elements of excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire. The equivalent term for men is "satyriasis." Excessive sexual desire in women (as in men) is a rather ethereal concept. To evaluate what excessive sexual desire or behavior is, it is crucial to understand normative sexual desire. Numerous North American studies have revealed a wide range of variability in the frequency of sexual behavior, with no agreed upon norm except a statistical one. Indeed, there is a great deal of variability within any individual's sexual history. It is not unusual for couples to report engaging in various sexual behaviors with Promethean vigor during the beginning of a sexual relationship or during a crisis in a long-standing relationship. Engaging in sexual behaviors three or four times a day is not unusual in these circumstances. Thus, it is difficult to find a numerical equivalent of "excessive." At the biological level, one might use a marker such as "physiologically harmful" or "tissue injury" to delineate excessive.

The concept of "uncontrollable" sexual desire as part of the picture of nymphomania introduces a more clinical aspect that pertains to motivation. For instance, a woman who had ten sexual contacts in a day might be considered a nymphomaniac from a clinical perspective. A prostitute who had the same number of sexual contacts in a day would presumably not be labeled with this term, because the motivation is assumed to be financial and not her own sexual desire and gratification. The depiction of sexual desire as uncontrollable suggests the possibility of an insatiable libido or other factors that impel the person toward frequent sexual contact. A perusal of the clinical literature reveals no cases of insatiable libido. The most frequently cited factors involved in excessive sexual desire are frequent sexual contacts without gratification or orgasm, emotional tension, manic states, obsessive-compulsive disorders, an inordinate need to be accepted by men, and an attempt to deny homosexual feelings. It would appear that Kaplan's observation that excessive sexual desire is so rare as to constitute a clinical curiosity when it is a primary symptom still holds true.

The elusive nature of nymphomania is further reflected in previously published editions of the Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior, which contains only two references to the term. The first reference, which appears unchanged in all three editions, extols the virtue of treating this condition with androgenic compounds. The rationale for this treatment is as follows: (1) nymphomania is the result of many sexual contacts without gratification due to failure to achieve orgasm; (2) treatment with androgens helps achieve orgasm so that "an excessive number of sexual contacts is no longer necessary." Suffice it to say, this is no longer a treatment of choice for women having trouble reaching orgasm, who would not meet the criteria for nymphomania anyway.

The second reference, which also appears unchanged in all but the first edition, is a brief discussion of nymphomania as male wish fulfillment in the context of pornography. Indeed, it seems that the only place where nymphomania appears to thrive is in the fantasies of males or in depictions of those fantasies. X-rated or hard-core magazines, books, and movies that have a story line tend to follow a similar pattern. They almost always involve sexually insatiable women who are incapable of resisting any type of male sexual advance. In reality, the label of nymphomania is most frequently used by men when they encounter a woman whose sexual desire may be more intense than their own. If a woman is more sexual than they are, she must be a nymphomaniac so the reasoning goes. The gender bias in the perception of sexual appetites is further underscored when one considers that a female with a lusty sexual appetite is often described as "promiscuous," while her male counterpart is more likely to be called "horny" or "ardent." In this respect, we might note that the male equivalent of nymphomania, satyriasis, is much less widely known, at least among college students.

In conclusion, it appears that nymphomania is primarily located in male sexual fantasy and wish fulfillment. For most males, this is the safest place to encounter the nymphomaniac. As Symons noted, the sexually insatiable woman is to be found primarily, if not exclusively, in the ideology of feminism, the hopes of boys, and the fears of men.


Ellis, A., and Abarbanel, A. The Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior. Vol. 1. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1961.

Ellis, A., and Abarbanel, A. The Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior. 2nd ed. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1967.

Kaplan, H.S. Disorders of Sexual Desire. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.

Symons, D. The Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979.

A.R. Allgeier

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