The International History of Sexology

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“INTRODUCTION: THE HISTORY AND CONCEPT OF SEXOLOGY

In our Western civilization attempts at a rational and systematic study of human sexual behavior date back at least to the ancient Greeks. Indeed, physicians like Hippocrates and the philosophers Plato and Aristotle can be claimed as the legitimate forefathers of sex research, since they made extensive observations and offered the first elaborate theories regarding sexual responses and dysfunctions, reproduction and contraception, abortion, sex legislation, and sexual ethics. In imperial Rome, Greek physicians like Soranus and Galen further advanced and systematized ancient sexual knowledge. Their work, in turn, prompted later Islamic scholars to devote a great deal of attention to sexual questions. These studies, originally written in Arabic, were translated and introduced into medieval Europe. Together with re-edited Greek and Roman manuscripts, they became standard texts at newly established medical schools and stimulated a rebirth of anatomical research in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The names of Fallopio (Fallopian tubes), de Graaf (Graafian follicles), Berthelsen (Bartholin’s glands) and Cowper (Cowper’s glands) recall, even today, the first flowering of modern anatomy and remain associated with the then newly discovered parts of human sexual anatomy. The Age of Enlightenment ushered in a vigorous and increasingly secularized discussion of sexual ethics and produced the first programs of public and private sex education as well as new classifications and documentations of sexual behavior. In the 19th century, new concerns about overpopulation, sexual psychopathy and degeneracy gave rise to the concept of “sexuality” and led to intensified efforts on many fronts to get a firmer intellectual grasp on a subject matter that rapidly seemed to grow ever more complex. Biological, medical, historical, and anthropological research by von Baer, Darwin, Mendel, Kaan, Morel, Magnan, Charcot, Westphal, Burton, Morgan, Mantegazza, Westermarck, Krafft-Ebing, Schrenck-Notzing, and others, laid the foundations of sex research in the modern, more specific sense. Finally, at the turn of the 20th century, the pioneering work of Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, and Iwan Bloch established the investigation of sexual problems as a legitimate endeavor in its own right.”

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