Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behaviors and functions. The term sexology does not generally refer to the non-scientific study of sexuality, such as political science or social criticism.
Sexologists apply tools from several academic fields, such as biology, medicine, psychology, epidemiology, sociology and criminology. Topics of study include sexual development (puberty), sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual relationships and sexual activity, paraphilias and atypical sexual interests, as well as the sexualities of special groups, such as child sexuality, adolescent sexuality, sexuality among the elderly and the disabled. The sexological study of sexual dysfunctions and disorders, including erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, and pedophilia, are also mainstays. The field also employs specific therapeutic models to help patients dealing with various issues, such as the PLISSIT model.
The scientific study of sex is relatively new. While there are works dedicated to 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.
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. However, none of these treat sex as the subject of a formal field of scientific or medical research.
De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris (Prostitution in the City of Paris), an early 1830s study on 3,558 registered prostitutes in Paris, published by Alexander Jean Baptiste Parent-Duchatelet (and published in 1837, a year after he died), has been called the first work of modern sex research.
Sexology as an academic discipline
Despite the prevailing social attitude of sexual repression in the Victorian era, the movement towards sexual emancipation began towards the end of the nineteenth century in England and Germany. In 1886, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing published Psychopathia Sexualis. That work is considered as having established sexology as a scientific discipline.
In England, the founding father of sexology was the doctor and sexologist Havelock Ellis who challenged the sexual taboos of his era regarding masturbation and homosexuality and revolutionized the conception of sex in his time. His seminal work was the 1897 Sexual Inversion, which describes the sexual relations of homosexual males, including men with boys. Ellis wrote the first objective study of homosexuality, (the term was coined by Kertbeny) as he did not characterize it as a disease, immoral, or a crime. The work assumes that same-sex love transcended age taboos as well as gender taboos. Seven of his twenty-one case studies are of inter-generational relationships. He also developed other important psychological concepts, such as autoerotism and narcissism, both of which were later developed further by Sigmund Freud.
Ellis pioneered transgender phenomena alongside the German Magnus Hirschfeld. He established it as new category that was separate and distinct from homosexuality. Aware of Hirschfeld's studies of transvestism, but disagreeing with his terminology, in 1913 Ellis proposed the term sexo-aesthetic inversion to describe the phenomenon.
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 Freud, Alfred Adler, and Wilhelm Stekel. In 1913, the first academic association was founded: the Society for Sexology.
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. 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[vague] because of their emphasis on the role of sexuality in the revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of mankind.
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.
Hirschfeld also set up the first Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexology) in Berlin in 1919. Its library housed over 20,000 volumes, 35,000 photographs, a large collection of art and other objects. People from around Europe visited the Institute to gain a clearer understanding of their sexuality and to betreated for their sexual concerns and dysfunctions.
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). Germany's dominance in sexual behavior research ended with the Nazi regime. The Institute and its library were destroyed by the Nazis less than three months after they took power, May 8, 1933. The institute was shut down and Hirschfeld's books were burned.
Other sexologists in the early gay rights movement included Ernst Burchard, Hans Blüher, and Benedict Friedlaender. Ernst Grafenberg, after whom the G-spot is named, published the initial research developing the intrauterine device (IUD).
After World War II, sexology experienced a renaissance, both in the United States and Europe. Large scale studies of sexual behavior, sexual function, and sexual dysfunction gave rise to the development of sex therapy. 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. 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.
Psychologist and sexologist John Money developed theories on sexual identity and gender identity in the 1950s. His work, notably on the David Reimer case has since been regarded as controversial, even while the case was key to the development of treatment protocols for intersex infants and children.
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 is currently used in the assessment of pedophilia and hebephilia. This tool has since been used with sex offenders.
In 1966 and 1970, Masters and Johnson released their works Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy, respectively. Those volumes sold well, and they were founders of what became known as the Masters & Johnson Institute in 1978.
This is a list of sexologists and notable contributors to the field of sexology, by year of birth:
- Certified sex therapist
- Gender and sexuality studies
- List of academic journals in sexology
- List of sexology organizations
- Philosophy of sex
- Sex education
- Sexological testing
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