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Sexology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behavior, and function. The term does not generally refer to the non-scientific study of sex, such as political analysis or social criticism.[1][2]

In modern sexology, researchers apply tools from several academic fields, including biology, medicine, psychology, statistics, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, and criminology. Sexologists study sexual development (puberty), sexual orientation, the development of sexual relationships, as well as the mechanics of sexual intercourse. It also documents the sexualities of special groups, such as the disabled, child development, adolescents, and the elderly. Sexologists additionally study sexual dysfunctions, disorders, and variations, including such widely varying topics as erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, and pedophilia.

Historical overview

Sexology as it exists today, as a specific research-based scientific field, is relatively new. While there are works dedicated towards sex in antiquity, the scientific study of sexual behavior in human beings began in the 19th century. Shifts in Europe's national borders at that time brought into conflict laws that were sexually liberal and laws that criminalized behaviors such as homosexual activity.

Pre-Nazi Germany, under the sexually liberal Napoleonic code, organized and resisted the anti-sexual, Victorian cultural influences. The momentum from those groups led them to coordinate sex research across traditional academic disciplines, bringing Germany to the leadership of sexology. Physician Magnus Hirschfeld was an outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, founding the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights.[3] Other sexologists in the early gay rights movement included Ernst Burchard and Benedict Friedlaender. Ernst Grafenberg, after whom the g-spot is named, published the initial research developing the intrauterine device (IUD). Germany's dominance in sexual behavior research ended with the Nazi regime, marked by the destruction of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexology) in Berlin.[1]

After World War II, sexology experienced a renaissance, beginning in the United States. Large scale studies of sexual behavior, sexual function, and sexual dysfunction gave rise to the development of sex therapy.[2] Post-WWII sexology in the U.S. was influenced by the influx of European refugees escaping the Nazi regime and the popularity of the Kinsey studies. Until that time, American sexology consisted primarily of groups working to end prostitution and to educate youth about sexually transmitted diseases.[1]

The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s caused a dramatic shift in sexological research efforts towards understanding and controlling the spread of the disease.[4]

Timeline of major events


Sexual manuals have existed since antiquity, such as Ovid's Ars Amatoria, the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, the Ananga Ranga and The Perfumed Garden for the Soul's Recreation. None of these treat sex as the subject of a formal field of scientific or medical research, however.

Pre World-War II

In 1837, De la prostitution dans la ville de ParisDuchatelet provided data from a sample of 3,558 registered prostitutes of Paris. That effort has been called the first work of modern sex research.[1]

In 1886, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing published Psychopathia Sexualis. That work is considered as having established sexology as a scientific discipline.[5]

In 1897, Havelock Ellis, a British sexologist, co-authored the first English medical text book on homosexuality, Sexual inversion (Das Konträre Geschlechtsgefühle).[6] (The original German-languaged edition was published in 1896.) A friend of Edward Carpenter, Ellis was one of the first sexologists who did not regard homosexuality as a disease, immoral, or a crime. He preferred the term inversion to homosexuality, and developed concepts such as autoerotism and narcissism, which were later adopted by Sigmund Freud. He is regarded as having been one of the most influential scholars in opposing Victorian morality regarding sex.[5]

In 1908, the first scholarly journal of the field, Journal of Sexology (Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft), began publication and was published monthly for one year. Those issues contained articles by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Wilhelm Stekel.[2]

In 1913, the first academic association was founded: the Society for Sexology.[7]

Sigmund Freud developed a theory of sexuality. These stages of development include: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital. These stages run from infancy to puberty and onwards.[8] based on his studies of his clients, between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wilhelm Reich and Otto Gross, were disciples of Freud, but rejected by his theories because of their emphasis on the role of sexuality in the revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of mankind.

In 1919, Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexology) in Berlin. Its library housed over 20,000 volumes, 35,000 photographs, a large collection of art and other objects. The Institute and its library were destroyed by the Nazis less than three months after they took power, May 8, 1933.[2] Hirschfeld developed a system which identified numerous actual or hypothetical types of sexual intermediary between heterosexual male and female to represent the potential diversity of human sexuality, and is credited with identifying a group of people that today are referred to as transsexual or transgender as separate from the categories of homosexuality, he referred to these people as 'transvestiten' (transvestites).[9][10]

Post World-War II

Alfred Kinsey founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University at Bloomington in 1947. This is now called the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. He wrote in his 1948 book that more was scientifically known about the sexual behavior of farm animals than of humans.[11]

Kurt Freund developed the penile plethysmograph in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. The device was designed to provide an objective measurement of sexual arousal in males, and Freund used it to help dispel a number of myths surrounding homosexuality. This tool has since been used with sex offenders.[12][13]

In 1966 and 1970, William Masters and Virginia Johnnson released their works Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy, respectively. Those volumes sold well, and Masters and Johnson founded what became known as the Masters & Johnson Institute in 1978.

Vern Bullough was the most prominent historian of sexology during this era, as well as being a researcher in the field.[14]

21st century

Technological advances have permitted sexological questions to be addressed with studies using behavioral genetics,[15] neuroimaging,[16] and large-scale Internet-based surveys.[17]

At the start of the 21st century, the Université du Québec à Montréal was the only university in the world to offer a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in sexology.[18] As of 2012, however, other universities, such as Curtin University in Australia, have similar courses.[19]

Notable contributors

This is a list of sexologists and notable contributors to the field of sexology, by year of birth:

See also


External links

  • Kama Sutra in PDF
  • DMOZ
  • International Society for Sexual Medicine
  • Robert Koch Institute, Humboldt University of Berlin
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