Nowadays we speak without hesitation about sexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, as if the meaning of the word 'sexuality' were totally clear. This is certainly not the case. In the nineteenth century, when the concept of sexuality was being introduced, a Dutch dictionary gave 'sexuality' quite another definition than the one we are used to: 'sex system' (with sex in the meaning of biological gender), according to Linnaeus, and derived from the Latin 'sexus'. It is likely that biology, especially the theory of evolution that attributes an essential role to propagation, led to the entanglement of gender and sexuality which still prevails today.

In recent years, historians have debated at length the social construction of homosexuality by physicians in the nineteenth century. Inspired by Foucault, Weeks in particular has focused on this 'making of the modern homosexual'.(1) Such medical attention had far-reaching consequences for the 'perverts' and the 'perversions', since turn-of-the-century doctors changed what had once been considered lust beyond and after the saturation of normal desires into a psychopathological constitution. According to them, sexual aberrations were not learned, but biologically determined. Once the good doctors had discovered the perversions and sexual psychopathology, they became interested in 'normal' sexuality as well and founded the discipline of sexology. Since these developments have not been analysed very often, I shall concentrate in this final chapter on the emergence of 'Sexualwissenschaft' or sexology and its crucial role in the modernisation of sexuality.


Several modern historians have discerned a sexual revolution halfway through the eighteenth century.(3) They may not agree about the character of the change, but consensus does exist that something happened to Western sexualities. Prior to this, all sexual acts that either occurred outside of marriage or did not intend procreation had been considered sinful and criminal. 'Philosophes' of the Enlightenment, such as Montesquieu and Voltaire, started opposing the stringent practices which resulted from this moral-theological outlook. They defended lust within marriage, regardless of procreative intent, and, moreover, did not condemn libertine pleasures. Especially the materialist de Lamettrie defended a philosophy of hedonism in eating, drinking and loving. But two forms of sexuality were still abhorred: masturbation and Socratic love (as Voltaire put it; nowadays we would speak of homosexuality). However, these expressions of lust were not to be criminalised, but rather prevented.(4)

   Masturbation aroused a particularly enormous panic.(5) It was the enlightened physician Tissot who attracted worldwide attention with his De l'onanisme (1760). His treatise was chiefly important for two reasons. First, in the Age of Reason the child was imagined to embody a natural innocence which only a bad education could spoil. Onanism was an unmistakable indicator of poor upbringing and thus the struggle against self-abuse provided the basis for a new and enlightened pedagogy. Because any mistake in the child's rearing could induce masturbation - wrong food, wrong sleeping and clothing habits, wrong upbringing, wrong lifestyles - the educator had to pay attention to every facet of the child's life. Secondly, Tissot also detected a connection between sexuality and insanity: masturbation led to all kinds of diseases of wasting, including shrinkage of the spinal chord and the brain. Nonacceptable sexual behavior caused insanity, whereas masturbation itself was generated by social and cultural factors: misguided education, overheated fantasy. After the French Revolution, Pinel reorganised psychiatry thoroughly, and Tissots schemata were adopted in psychiatric models of explanation. A new generation of psychiatrists considered insanity the outcome of 'excesses of sex and alcohol' (‘in venere et baccho’). Only at the end of the nineteenth century was a more precise connection set forth: the fourth stage of syphilis appeared to be identical with 'dementia paralytica', a deadly brain disease. But we need not take these 'explanations' of eighteenth and nineteenth-century psychiatrists too seriously. Negative social, geographical, climatological, cultural and hereditary circumstances could all lead to insanity. In the mid-nineteenth century, the theory of degeneration was such a comprehensive system that almost anything could be imagined as a cause or consequence of insanity.(6)

   With Tissot's focus on masturbation and the corresponding reorientation in psychiatry, a new interest in 'sexual aberrations' was awakened, but it was often merely anecdotal. In his book with the promising title La médecine des passions (1844), Descuret devoted more attention to suicide than to love. Among the 'beastly' passions he included drunkenness, gluttony, rage, anger, laziness and libertinism, while the 'social' passions were love, pride, ambition, envy, greed, gambling, suicide, duelling, and nostalgia. Finally, he considered the 'intellectual' passions, the manias for study, order, music and collecting, and also artistic, religious and political fanaticism. Descuret's medicine of passions is a fascinating museum of curiosities which enjoyed a certain success (and numerous reprints), although thanks more to his marvelous stories than any theoretical or therapeutic insight. Let me recapitulate one example of his 'passion of love'. An eighteen-year-old Spanish girl, Maria de los Dolores, lived with her father, a shepherd. Their life together went well until Maria fell in love with Juan. This love was reciprocal but Maria's father forbade the alliance. The enamored's supplications were to no avail against the father's stubbornness. The proud Juan decided not to pursue an impossible love affair, and Maria had to stay with her father. Once, when her father roasted a piece of meat, Maria flared up and acted out her bitter thoughts: she grabbed a knife, stabbed her father to death, and cut his heart out of his body. She roasted the heart and devoured it 'while she uttered terrible cries (..): "See, he took my Juan from me, I killed him; he broke my heart, see here his!"' The metaphor of the heart cost the father his life, and Maria 'of the Grieves' was locked up in a madhouse in Saragossa.(7)

  Apart from the realms of masturbation and psychiatry, enlightened philosophy had a third consequence for sexual life. Sodomy, defined as anal penetration or any sexual act that did not intend procreation, was until the eighteenth century a sin for which the death penalty could be imposed. The 'philosophes' of the Enlightenment criticised the severe penalties for sodomy, and indeed this 'infamous crime' disappeared from many lawbooks after the criminal code reform in France: France itself in 1791, the Netherlands in 1811, Bavaria in 1813. Wherever sodomy remained a crime, forensic medicine continued to discuss evidence of it, especially involving the penetrated partner's anus. Since the founding of forensic medicine at the beginning of the seventeenth century, most handbooks had given attention to sodomy or 'unnatural vices'. However, they discussed only the consequences of a given act, not the causes of sodomy or the character of sodomites.(8)


This changed after 1800, when sodomy was decriminalised and the articles on it in handbooks of forensic medicine became outdated. In 1843, three French doctors no longer examined the anus of a pederast's victim, but instead studied the mental state of the pederast himself.(9) One year later, Kaan wrote his dissertation ”Psychopathia sexualis“, a work whose content was typical for his transitional period but bearing a title that would later become proverbial through the famous handbook of Krafft-Ebing. Kaan's theoretical basis was Tissot's theory of masturbation, but he discussed other sexual perversions as well. According to Kaan, onanism was the result of excessive fantasising and led in turn to all other perversions. His formula was that self-abuse was the 'pars pro toto' of all debauchery. He mentioned all the vices that were known to forensic medicine: pederasty; tribadism (from Greek ”tribein = rubbing; here he does not mean only a lesbian act but also a certain form of male homosexuality); bestiality; violation of corpses and statues. Onanism and ultimately all perversions must, according to Kaan, lead to insanity.(10)

   Michéa's article 'Des déviations maladives de l'appétit vénérien'(1849), though a relatively obscure publication, represented a breakthrough in theorising about sexuality. For him, the perversions were not acts caused by an excessive fantasy; they were not socio¬psychological, but rather physiological phenomena. Perverted behavior implied a changed biological functioning. Michéa reversed the relationship between sexual behavior and nervous damage. The brain was not damaged by sexual acts; instead, sexual aberrations were produced by neurological or other physiological changes. Michéa once again reiterated the classical classification of vices, but he stressed 'philopédie' - his neologism for pederasty - notwithstanding that the starting point for his article was a case of corpse violation. Michéa stated that the 'philopédes' were feminine and explained their femininity by the existence of a female organ in their bodies, responding to the then recent discovery of a rudimentary uterus in some males. His theory was thus biological and deterministic, and he realised so himself, for he cited the eighteenth-century materialist de Lamettrie with approval.(11)

Michéa's discovery of the 'philopédie' came about in a turbulent period: immediately after the revolution of 1848, when Hausmann started to reconstruct Paris and men of science began to replace a biblical history of mankind with a natural history of the human race, primarily with theories of evolution and degeneration: Darwin, Morel, Gobineau, Marx.(12) The reorganisation of social and urban life, especially the growth of the police force, caused the number of apprehended sex-delinquents to rise steadily. The life stories of many of them were reported as medical cases in Casper's and Tardieu's handbooks of forensic medicine. Their works occupy a special position in the flow of such handbooks, since they treated sodomy not just as an abstract issue, but provided authentic case studies of 'wrong lovers'.(13)

   Following Michéa, the Berlin professor of forensic medicine Casper stressed the feminine qualities of pederasts, calling them 'hermaphrodites of the mind'. Why did these doctors stress the feminine character of wrong lovers? At the one hand, they were simply reporting their own observations. For 150 years, a subculture of sodomites had existed in which forms of transvestism played a significant part.(14) But more importantly, men of science were starting to discover the deviant personality behind different kinds of 'abnormal' behavior (insanity, crime, perversion), and it was principally physicians who connected deviant behavior with the physiological and psychological development of individuals. At the same time, Lombroso was developing the new science of criminology, the study of the 'born criminal' and the 'criminal constitution'. Behind crime, the criminal now became visible.(15) Thus doctors saw in homosexuals a new race, a third sex between men and women. They conceived of sexuality as an attraction between opposite poles (man and woman), and consequently, if a man felt attracted to a man, he must according to them be a woman.

   The homosexual lawyer and classicist Ulrichs developed this notion into an elaborate theoretical construct and authored twelve treatises about it (1864-1870 and 1880).(16) He had a fine and oft-cited formula for 'uranism', his neologism for what in 1869 became known as homosexuality: ”anima muliebris in corpore virili inclusa”, or “a woman's soul enclosed in a male body”. Basing his theory on what was known about hermaphroditism, he suggested that uranism came about as a psychic hermaphroditism in the first thirteen weeks of embryonic life. Uranism was thus an inborn capacity which had its place in the body: in his first booklets, he located it in the brain; later, in the testicles. It is remarkable that it was a classicist who was the first to break with the traditional apology of male love that had heretofore been based on Socratic philosophy and Plato's ”Symposion”. But this classicist, Ulrichs, had a clear message for his times. In the 1860's, Bismarck was forging the unification of Germany, and divergent criminal codes had to be integrated. Whereas Bavaria had no criminal law concerning homosexual acts, 'unnatural fornication' was the object of severe penalties in Prussia. Precisely this illiberal law was to become the national German standard. Ulrichs' treatises were directed against the criminalisation of homosexual acts, and in the heyday of European liberalism, his message got a rather friendly reception. A blue-ribbon medical commission, which included the leading German physiologist Virchow, prepared for the Prussian minister of law a report on the dangers posed by unnatural vice and concluded that such acts, both sodomy and mutual masturbation, were not injurious unless practised to excess.(17) Despite this report, the German penal code got its infamous Paragraph 175 criminalising unnatural fornication.

According to Ulrichs it was the pressure of Christian groups that led to this atavistic situation, one which persisted well into the twentieth century. Nevertheless, Ulrichs' apology in biological terms had more chance of succeeding than a cultural­historical approach now that materialism and positivism were on the rise.(18)

Ulrichs' lonely struggle for uranian emancipation was destined to fail, and he fled to Italy. But his biologistic theory had an enormous, if unintended success. The leading Berlin psychiatrists endorsed his theory while giving it another direction. They considered uranism, which Westphal christened 'sexual inversion', a psychopathological condition that should be an object of psychiatric study.(19) Especially thanks to Krafft-Ebing, who likewise was inspired by Ulrichs, the psychiatric doctrine of homosexuality became known worldwide as the keystone of his sexual psychopathology.(20) Psychiatrists gave increasing attention to homosexuality, which was now regarded as the precise reversal (sexual inversion) of heterosexuality, in turn deemed the 'normal' form of sexuality. Up to 1880, it was mostly Germans who discussed the new invention, but after 1880 a lively interest in homosexuality emerged throughout the Western world, especially in France. Most prominent French psychiatrists published on sexual aberrations in the eighties.(21)

The introduction of sexual psychopathology was a scientific revolution in Kuhn's sense.(22) Several decisive points in the breakthrough can be delineated. First of all, the proper focus of the new subject was a matter of debate. Was the central theme sexual behavior or sexual identity? In forensic medecine, attention was always devoted to the physical consequences of sexual practices. After 1880, the interest centered on the personality of individuals who had other than 'normal' sexual desires. A second point was the continuing uncertainity about sexual vocabulary. Each author invented new terms for sexual aberrations such as exhibitionism, fetishism, sadism and masochism. Other psychiatrists coined terms which are now quite obscure: 'mixoscopism' (voyeurism), 'copromania' (sexual desire for excrement), 'pagism' (the sexual subjugation of a male to a beautiful girl), 'picacism' (noncoïtal heterosexuality).(23)

A third element of this scientific revolution was the classification of perversions. The old system of forensic medicine sank into oblivion. Moreau (1880) divided the perversions into 'abnormal intelligences', nymphomania and satyriasis (heightened sexual lust in the female and male), erotomania and absolute sexual perversion: bestiality and the violation of corpses and of women. Homosexuality belonged to the abnormal intelligences.(24) A Russian psychiatrist divided the 'diseased phenomena of the sexual sense' (1885) into hereditary, learned and compound forms of pederasty.(25) The classification proposed by Lacassagne and Krafft-Ebing became the most successful. They distinguished quantitative (large,limited or lacking sexual desire) and qualitative forms, such as pederasty, tribadism (female homosexuality), necrophilia, bestiality and the 'nihilistes de la chair', who were shortly afterwards dubbed 'fetishists'.(26)

A fourth element of the scientific revolution in sexual thinking was the confusion concerning explanations. Binet proposed to explain all perversions through 'association of ideas' in youth. He meant that the linkage of sexual lust with a specific object gave the perversion its particular form; therefore he spoke of 'fetishism in love'. The case of the sleeping cap became famous: a girl had a strong sexual obsession for white sleeping caps since she once slept with her grandmother who wore one. According to Binet, such perversions could only develop on a degenerate base; his psychological explanation implied a physical pathology.(27) This theory was the most important new explanation of the stormy eighties. Most physicians still distinguished between biologically based 'perversions' and 'perversities' resulting from sexual exhaustion. Whereas earlier authors held that perversity was more widespread than perversion, Krafft-Ebing stated in 1901 that homosexuality was always a perversion and never a perversity. Thus the balance had shifted dramatically.

In the eighties, two theories survived: first the biological, according to which all sexual perversions were inborn forms of degeneration, and secondly the psychological, which stressed the importance of upbringing. The biological theory predominated and slowly replaced older notions of exhaustion, lust and excessive fantasy. Whereas most phsicians considered homosexuality a degeneration, homosexuals such as Ulrichs used the biological model to stress that uranism was a normal, nonpathological variation of the sexual drive. From 1896 on, Hirschfeld emerged as the foremost proponent of this view and in 1901 he succeeded in bringing Krafft-Ebing over to his side.(28) Binet was the first to propose a psychological explanation, and others soon followed his lead. A therapy for homosexuality was developed, bringing an end to the phase of 'therapeutic nihilism' which had prevailed up till then. Whereas other psychiatrists paid no attention to prevention or cure, 'suggestion therapy' yielded good results according to the doctor who developed it.(29) Another doctor explained perversion by pointing to the existence of a period of sexual nondifferentiation in which not only the perversions, but also heterosexuality developed. For Dessoir, procreation and the sexuality directed toward it were no longer self-evident and natural facts.(30) Discussion of sexual psychopathology ended up problematising heterosexuality itself. Thus, and also because of state policies concerning population growth, the need for good sexual politics was slowly becoming evident.

   The emergence of sexual psychopathology signalled a paradigmatic shift. Forensic medicine with its classification of vices was abandoned, to be supplanted by a psychiatry of perversions. In the period 1880-1895, sexual psychopathology was a developing science; classification, terminology and the precise nature of its object were hotly debated. A shift away from sexual practices to the psychology of perversion was the general trend, and the focus of attention was changed: previously, the bodily consequences of certain acts had been the primary consideration; now the question was how acts were caused by physiological and psychological determinants. Krafft-Ebing's ”Psychopathia sexualis” (1886) was the standard work of the new field and appeared nearly every year in a revised and enlarged edition, each time incorporating new ideas and new terms.(31) It marked the first shift in a paradigmatic change of which the second shift would be the creation of 'Sexual­wissenschaft' or exology.


Interest in sexuality in general originated after 1890. In the 'purity crusade' which sprang up at the end of the nineteenth century all over the Western world, social interest in the various forms of sexual life developed quickly.(32) Especially because of the debate on prostitution, sexuality became a major topic among many social groups.(33) Condoms became available to a large segment of the population. Due to new printing techni­ques, pornography could be sold on an unprecedented scale. Sexuality became a social question for which liberals had no good answer because of their reluctance to interfere in private life. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, such groups as fundamentalist Christians, socialists and feminists rejected liberal sexual politics, which for them led to satanic vices, capitalist degeneracy or male contempt of women. In a remarkable coalition, they managed in many countries to bring about medical control of prostitution and the enactment of stricter criminal laws concerning sexuality. Within sexual psychopathology interest shifted, due both to social pressure as well as the discipline's inner logic, from perversions to 'normal' forms of sexuality, which some experts now regarded not as self-evident, but as tenuous results of human development.

A major development towards a general theory of sexuality, towards a sexology in the modern sense, was the appearance of Moll's ”Untersuchungen über die Libido sexualis” (1897), the first standard work in sexology. Moll unlinked sexuality and procreation, challenging the notion of a 'procreative drive'; procreation, he suggested, was the coincidental result of certain sexual acts.(34) In addition, he argued that attitudes towards perversion should be liberalised radically, for he was a strict Darwinist and believed that the human race could survive only through bitter struggle. He regarded heterosexual marital life as the social precondition for biological propagation. He distinguished two drives: firstly, 'Detumeszenz' (discharge), as the narrow definition of the sexual drive, and secondly, 'Kontrektation' (relationship drive, we would say now), as the social side of the sex drive. As a Darwinist, Moll stressed the importance of stimulating the heterosexual relationship drive in order to guarantee human survival. This was a time when West European population growth was levelling off while the Western nations were seeking to rapidly expand into their colonial territories. He acknowledged the existence of biologically determined variations of the relationship drive, especially homosexuality, but because of his Darwinist outlook he simultaneously stressed the importance of preventing learned homosexuality. Through the centrality of Moll's relationship drive within sexology, the modern stalemate-dichotomy of homo- and heterosexuality came into being. Sexologists increasingly came to interpret non­homosexual perversions as specific forms of hetero- or homosexual relationship drive. By so strongly interpreting sexuality as a relationship, sexologists were turning homosexuality into the sole systematic aberration of the man-wife pattern and locating it in the centre of the domain of sexual perversions. Homosexuality now became the most important qualitative variation of the sex drive, and numerous books were published on the subject with such subtitles as 'with special attention to sexual inversion'.

Following Moll, sexology developed quickly, especially in the German-speaking countries. He wrote ”Das Sexualleben des Kindes” (1909, 'The sexual life of the child'), edited the ”Handbuch der Sexualwissenschaft” (1908, 'Handbook of sexology'), to which Freud also contributed, and a journal was published using the same term. From the turn of the century onward sexology prospered, particularly in Germany, and this era came to an end only when Hitler took power - and then not because the National Socialists opposed sexology per se, but because so many sexologists were Jewish.(35)

It would be incorrect to regard Freud as a thinker who was radical because he was the first to dare to discuss sexuality, especially that of children. Most French and German psychiatrists before Freud had paid attention to sexual life, and to their astonishment they had to acknowledge how early the sexual drive manifested itself. The most important contribution of psychoanalysis was incorporating the shocking revelations of sexual psychopathology into the oedipal system and thus rendering them harmless. Freud subsumed the sexual perversions under 'normal' sexual development and suggested therapeutic cures for them. Psychoanalysis was a method of social adaptation, not a radical social theory. Therefore, it could succeed even more quickly than sexology.(36)

From its beginnings, sexology was an applied science. While basic research was being conducted elsewhere in medicine and biology, sexologists appropriated analytical devices developed elsewhere and applied them to sexology. Research on hermaphroditism led to theories of homosexuality; the discovery of hormones and chromosomes made explanations of sexual differences possible. Thus sexology functioned from its beginnings as a social science with the pretension of being a natural science, a status to which it could aspire only through analogic thinking. Sexologists had the same problems as psychoanalysts. As social scientists they wanted to be natural scientists, but with their ambiguous strategy they only occasionally succeeded at achieving respectability. The significance of the confessions of psychiatric patients remained contested, especially by medical positivists.

   A clear example of the ambiguities of the work of sexologists was given by the Eulenburg-affair. At the end of the nineteenth century, forwardlooking scientists in Germany had started to campaign against the criminalisation of unnatural fornication (anal and intercrural homosexual intercourse as well as bestiality). Because they considered homosexuality a natural variation of the sexual drive, they regarded the criminalisation of homosexual acts entered into freely by adult men as a remnant of medieval superstition in an otherwise enlightened age. All the leading sexologists, from Krafft-Ebing to Freud, signed a petition to the German parliament or made statements with this gist. Hirschfeld took the initiative in this campaign. He was a leading sexologist, the founder of the world's first homosexual-rights organisation, the WHK (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, or Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), and editor of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Annual for sexual intermediates, 1899-1923).

   The scientific and political activities of sexologists furthered the general awareness of homosexuality but also provoked a backlash effect, evident for example in the spectacular homosexual scandals of the turn of the century: Oscar Wilde in 1895, Alfred Krupp in 1902. In 1907, the final and biggest scandal of all broke out when the journalist Maximilian Harden began to attack the 'Camarilla of Liebenberg'. He was referring to Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg, a close friend and advisor to Emperor Wilhelm II and at the same time an acquaintance of the secretary of the French embassy. Harden intended to expose the covert influence of this circle on German politics and its direct link with France. In order to achieve his goal more quickly, he hinted broadly at the existence of homosexual relations between the key figures of the circle, Eulenburg and Count Kuno von Moltke, the military commandant of Berlin. The latter brought a libel suit against Harden. The first trial he lost, amongst other reasons because Hirschfeld testified as an expert witness that Moltke was indeed a homosexual. His testimony was based in part on Moltke's physical attributes, but even more on the declarations of his former wife, who revealed to the court her sexless marital life with the count. In a second trial, it was successfully argued that her testimony was both hysterical and libelous. Hirschfeld was forced to reverse his opinion: Moltke was no homosexual. His psychological assessment had been based on vicious backbiting and his biology on extravagant conclusions derived from the human form. Hirschfeld's reputation suffered in two ways: he had to repudiate in public one of his 'expert' pronouncements, and homosexuals, observing that his theories could have negative consequences for themselves, abandoned the WHK in droves.(37)

   The German social democracy was especially interested in sexology; furthermore, it was the only political group that championed more liberal sexual policies and was able to implement them. The liberals did not want to do so because of their dislike of political engineering in the private sphere, while Christians as well as conservatives were staunch supporters of marriage and opposed any sex reform. In the turbulent years after the Great War socialists and sexologists worked together closely, and in the revolutionary era of 1918-9, Hirschfeld succeeded with socialist help in founding his 'Institute for Sexology'. Its scientific pretensions notwithstanding, it became an institution which specialised primarily in social and therapeutic help in sexual matters.(38)

   Aided by other pioneers in sexology, Hirschfeld convened in 1921 the first world congress on sexology in Berlin. At the second congress in Copenhagen, 1928, he founded the World League for Sexual Reform. This group organised three more conferences: at London in 1929, Vienna in 1930 and Brno in 1932. The goals of the League comprised themes still current today, such as equality of women and men, freedom to marry and divorce, access to birth control, a rational attitude towards homosexuals, systematic sex education, as well as some aims which would be out of place in a contemporary, progressive organisation: racial betterment through eugenics, prevention of venereal diseases and prostitution, and treatment for disturbances of the sex drive instead of regarding them as vices or crimes while it remains unclear what these disturbances might be.(39) Not only in its goals, but also in its publications, the League linked up with the international, leftist movement; its proceedings were even partially published in Esperanto. The Soviet Union was held up as the prime example of an enlightened state with advanced sexual politics, despite the chilly 'raison d'état' of the Russian sexologists' contributions to the conferences.(40) According to them, such sexual practices as bestiality and prostitution were no longer dealt with as crimes in their country, but instead were handled by medical therapy and social help. Thus, 'labor-prophylaxis' was required of prostitutes who were to learn how to carry out real work.

   Notwithstanding its social character, sexology was primarily founded on biology. Sexologists believed in the rational transmission of biological 'facts' within social reality and stressed the necessity of sex education based on these biological facts or, as they put it using a terrible term, 'reproductive biology education'.(42) Sexology wanted to be biological, rational and social - Hirschfeld's motto was 'per scientiam ad justitiam' - as well as relation-oriented: thus the dichotomisation of homo- and heterosexuality gained strength. Interest in masturbation was limited, in transvestism and pornography even more so, while fetishism and sadomasochism did not seem to be fit subjects for sexology at all. In Kaan's ”Psychopathia sexualis” (1844), onanism had been the 'pars pro toto' for all sexual aberrations, whereas after 1900 it became at most of marginal interest for sexology. Masturbation was no longer regarded as pathological because it led to physical exhaustion, but rather because it implied the absence of a social relationship. Before 1800, sodomy had been far worse a sin than self-abuse; after 1900, homosexuality could be regarded as better sex than masturbation, because it at least was social whereas onanism was asocial.

   After the Second World War, the United States became the center of sexology, and with the research of the biologist Kinsey it acquired a sociological character. But Kinsey's books were still based on biological premisses, especially the notion of the sexual outlet presupposing a sexual drive. His starting point was not the social construction of sexualities, but statistics on the innumerable orgasms in white, puritan America. His classification scheme was based on social relations: heterosexual relations before, inside and outside of marriage, or with prostitutes, homosexuality, bestiality and masturbation as relationless sex. Pornography, transvestism, sadomasochism and fetishism were rarely touched upon.(43) In sexual terminology and classification, Kinsey did not go beyond Moll's dichotomy of 1897: Kinsey's 'sexual outlet' is a

semantic equivalent of discharge, and his statistics are based on relations or, as Moll would have said, on contraction. The new feature in Kinsey's work is his statistical scale of findings on sexual outlets and pairings. The subsequent study carried out by the Kinsey Institute in the seventies marks a further retreat into biology. In Sexual preference, the authors test all sociopsychological theories concerning homosexuality, arrive at the conclusion that none is reliable and aver that homosexuality is probably biologically determined!(44)


The nineteenth century witnessed a paradigmatic revolution in the scientific approach to sexuality. The term itself was introduced and denoted new meanings. Moll's splitting of sexuality into discharge and relationship drive became the foundation of modern sexology. The idea of a drive to sexual discharge made sexology first of all a biological science, and secondly the idea of sexual relations and sexual object choice made sexology a science of intimate relations. Emphasis was placed first on biology and medicine, and only later on psychology. Sexuality was regarded as a universal category, not as a product of social and historical developments. Certain forms of sexual behavior received considerable atten¬tion, especially hetero- and homosexuality, whereas interest in other forms, such as sodomy and masturbation, dissipated. With his statistics on sexual outlets, Kinsey extended sexology into the realm of sociology. Because of the stress on biological foundations and psychological forms, certain erotic preferences received scant attention in sexology: fetishisms of body parts or clothes, the everyday forms of sadomasochism, sexual fantasy. Because sexuality has been interpreted as a private matter, its social and historical forms have remained insufficiently analysed. Its biological premisses have gone unquestioned, which has been detrimental to the quality of sexology.

   Sociological and historical investigations of sexuality have been impeded by the biological and psychological foundations of sexology. Another problem has been the flight from empirical behavior into theoretical speculation. Embarrassment about sexual acts continues to make it difficult to study such social facts. Moreover, many researchers quickly pass over actual sexual phenomena in order to discuss them in light of other social facts, for example homosexuality in terms of the relation with the parents, prostitution in terms of poverty and social class, transvestism in terms of gender, sadism in terms of power relations, or sexual rituals in terms of symbolic systems. Such analyses are legitimate, but they often hinder deeper insights into the sexual phenomena themselves. Also, the reverse is hardly ever done: analysing family life, politics or the economy in terms of sexuality. Psychoanalysis alone did so by systematically reducing psychic mechanisms to sexual phases, but it aimed at the therapeutic goal of preventing neuroses and sexual aberrations.

   Social prejudices as well as biological, psychological and theoretical premisses continue to impede the development of sociological and historical research on sexuality - all the more so since all these approaches interpret sexuality itself as a natural phenomenon that is constant over time and place. Despite a well developed scientific debate on culture and nature, and despite the importance researchers from the humanities and social sciences attribute to the cultural construction of social relations, analyses of sexual behavior are still determined by theories of biological drive and psychological development. Thus cultural-historical studies on sexuality have rarely been undertaken, while in sociology collating statistics on sexual outlets has proved to be the limit of what seems possible.

   Historians and sociologists need to devote more attention to the social formation of sexual mores, to their choreography and architecture, to representations and preliminaria of sexual acts. There is no sociology or history of sexual fashions, and no research has been conducted on the relationship between sexual fantasies and sexual modes of behavior, or on the connection between social circumstances and sexual practices.

   Sexuality is a constantly changing phenomenon; it is one manifestation of the culture of the body. Since Kinsey, sexologists have regarded sexual outlets as a biological phenomenon, as a natural preserve in a social environment, and thus they have not felt called upon to analyse the social nature of this act. Moreover, they have relegated sexuality as an intimate affair to psychology, ignoring the historical, social and political implications of sexual mores. Many questions remain which never have been analysed historically and sociologically: Why did the bordellos with their 'madams' disappear? Why did leather replace fur as a sexual fetish in sadomasochism? Why did the 'normal' boy or young man as a sexual object disappear from the homosexual imagination,

whereas he was such a familiar figure at the turn of the century in novels by Forster, Ackerley, and Proust, and how should this be related to the homogenisation and integration of homosexuality in modern society?

Sexuality is a plastic social and historical phenomenon, not a clinical or natural entity as even sociological and historical researchers have claimed.(45) Not only do views on sexuality change, but also sexuality and sexual behavior themselves change in an even more radical way than many sociologists and historians suppose. Why should we be surprised that biologists have such a central place in sexology and concern themselves with the social formation of sexuality when sociologists and historians refuse to research sexual mores, relegating sexuality as an analytical topic to biology? In light of the clinical speculations in which biologists rejoice and to which sociologists and historians submit, research on the social formation of sexualities cries out for more thorough and systematic pursuit.

I want to thank James D.Steakley and Mattias Duyves for their help with this article.

1.Foucault 1976; Weeks 1981. See also Bray 1982, Van der Meer 1984 and the articles by Boon, Chauncey and Hekma in Duyves 1984.

2.Hekma 1987. See for a history of psychopathia sexualis Wettley 1959; Lanteri-Laura 1979 and Sulloway 1979 ch.8.

3. Shorter 1975 and Trumbach 1986.

4.See Hekma 1987, ch. 1 and Stockinger 1979.

5.An article on the presentation of self-abuse as the functional groundwork for an enlightened pedagogy is published in G.Hekma and H.Roodenburg (eds.), Soete minne en helsche boosheit. Geschiedenis van seksuele voorstellingen in Nederland (Nijmegen SUN 1988).

6.See previous note, and Stengers & Van Neck 1984.

7.Descuret 1844:315.

8.See Hekma 1987, chs. 1 & 2.

9. Ferrus 1843.

10.Kaan 1844, pp.47-48, 43-45 and 64-67.

11.Michéa 1849: 338-339.

12. Darwin 1859; Morel 1857 and Gobineau 1853©1855; also the Marxist theory. See for degeneration theory Chamberlain 1985.

13.Casper 1852 and 1858; Tardieu 1857.

14.See Van der Meer 1984 passim; Trumbach 1977; Bray 1982, ch. 4.

15.Lombroso 1876. The degeneration theory of Morel (n.12) was the basis as well for Lombroso's criminal anthropology and for Krafft-Ebing's psychopathia sexualis.

16.Ulrichs' brochures were reprinted in Leipzig, 1898, and New York 1975, as Forschungen über das Rätsel der mannmännlichen Liebe. Therein: ”Vindex” (1864), ”Inclusa” (1864), ”Vindicta” (1865), ”Formatrix” (1865), ”Ara spei” (1865), ”Gladius furens” (1868) ”Memnon” (1868), ”Incubus” (1869), ”Argonauticus” (1869), ”Prometheus” (1870), ”Araxes” (1870) and ”Kritische Pfeile” (1880).

17.Reprinted in: Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen VII, Berlin 1905, pp.5-8.

18.For law reform, see Ulrichs (1975, ”Kritische Pfeile”), pp. 106-107.

19.Griesinger 1868 and Westphal 1869.

20.Krafft-Ebing 1877 and 1886.

21.See Courouve 1978; Binet 1888.

22.Kuhn 1962.

23.Lasègue 1877; sadism and masochism in Krafft-Ebing 1886, 1891; pagism and mixoscopism in Gallus 1905, pp. 74 and 298; copromania and picacism in Eulenburg 1895, pp. 103 and 8.

24.Moreau 1880.

25.Tarnowsky 1886.

26.Lacassagne, as cited in the dissertation of his student J. Chevalier 1885, pp. 10-11, Krafft-Ebing 1877.

27.Binet 1888.

28.Hirschfeld 1896, Krafft-Ebing 1901. In this article, Krafft-Ebing stated that he considered homosexuality a normal variant of the sexual drive.

29.Schrenck-Notzing 1892.

30.Dessoir 1894.

31.From 1886 to 1894, an enlarged and improved version of the book appeared each year. It grew from 110 to 414 pages. The 17th edition, by A.Moll, was 838 pages. Translations in Italian, Russian, English, French and Dutch appeared in 1886, 1887, 1892, 1895 and 1896.

32.Ussel 1968 and Pivar 1973.

33.See Walkowitz 1980; Corbin 1978, for the Netherlands Hekma 1984.

34.Moll 1897: 4.

35.See for persons, books and journals of this first period of German sexology Haeberle 1983.

36.Freud 1915 and Sulloway 1979.

37.See for the Eulenburg scandal Hirschfeld 1908; Friedländer 1909, ch. 9; Young 1959; Hull 1982; Steakley 1983.

38.See for Hirschfeld Seidel 1969, Steakley 1975, ch. 3; Steakley 1985 and “Magnus Hirschfeld” 1985.

39.See for the conferences Haeberle 1983. For the goals: Sexualnot und Sexualreform. Verhandlungen der Weltliga für Sexualreform. IV. Kongress (1930), ed. by H. Steiner (Vienna 1931), p. xix.

40.The Russian law reform was valued positively by Hirschfeld, see op.cit. (n.39) 383-384; there also the contribution of the Russian G. Batkis 338-345; and see: Sexual Reform Congress, Copenhagen ... 1928 ... Proceedings of the second congress, ed. by H. Riese & J.H.

Leunbach (Copenhagen/Leipzig 1929); Russian contributions on pp. 37-63 and 228-239.

41.Op.cit. (n.40) 230-232, N. Pasche-Oserski: 'Sexualstrafrecht in der Sowjet-Union'.

42.’Resolution: Sexualpädagogik’, in op.cit. (n.40), p. 148.

43.Kinsey 1948.

44.Bell 1981, ch. 19.

45.See Tielman 1982 passim, especially p.295 and Kooy 1976, especially p.64, where even a hierarchy of sexual behavior is given, from petting to coitus. Other sexual acts are termed preliminaria. For an example of a historian with the same natural attitude to sexuality, see Gay 1983.


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