Sexology is the 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. Sexology studies sexual development and 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 study sexual dysfunctions, disorders, and variations, including such widely varying topics as erectile dysfunction, pedophilia, and sexual orientation.

Sexological findings, in spite of being scientifically based, can still become controversial when they contradict "mainstream", religious, or political beliefs in a given society.


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.

German society, under the sexually liberal Napoleonic code, organized and resisted the anti-sexual cultural influences. The momentum from those groups led them to coordinate sex research across traditional academic disciplines, bringing Germany to the leadership of sexology.

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] But 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 advent of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s caused a dramatic shift in sexological research efforts towards understanding and controlling the spread of the disease.[3]

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 Paris (Prostitution in the City of Paris) was published by Alexander Jean Baptiste Parent-Duchatelet. In that study, Parent-Duchatelet 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.[4]

In 1897, Havelock Ellis, a British sexologist, co-authored the first English medical text book on homosexuality, Sexual inversion (Das Konträre Geschlechtsgefühle).[5] (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.[4]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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).[8][9]

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.[10]

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.[11][12]

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.

Vern Bullough was the most prominent historian of sexology during this era, as well as being a researcher in the field.[13]

21st Century

Technological advances have permitted sexological questions to be addressed with studies using behavioral genetics,[14] neuroimaging,[15] and large-scale Internet-based surveys.[16]

As of the early 21st century, the Université du Québec à Montréal is the only university in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in sexology.[17]

Notable contributors

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

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Bullough, V. L. (1989). The society for the scientific study of sex: A brief history. Mt. Vernon, IA: The Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
  2. ^ a b c d Haeberle, E. J. (1983). The birth of sexology: A brief history in documents. World Association for Sexology.
  3. ^ Gagnon, J. (1988). Sex research and sexual conduct in the era of AIDS. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, 1, 593-601.
  4. ^ a b Hoenig, J. (1977). Dramatis personae: Selected biographical sketches of 19th century pioneers in sexology. In J. Money and H. Musaph (Eds.), Handbook of Sexology, (pp. 21-43). Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical Press.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kewenig, W. A. (1983, May 22–27). Forward. In E. J. Haeberle, The birth of sexology: A brief history in documents (p. 3). World Association for Sexology.
  7. ^ Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex by Sigmund Freud - Project Gutenberg
  8. ^ Hirschfeld, Magnus (1910), Die Transvestiten. Eine Untersuchung über den erotischen Verkleidungstrieb. Mit umfangreichen casuistischen und historischen, Leipzig: Verlag von Max Spohr (Ferd. Spohr) 
  9. ^ Hirschfeld, Magnus (1920), Homosexualitat des Mannes und des Weibes, Berlin 
  10. ^ p. 3 of Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior of the human male. New York and Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
  11. ^ Associated Press (October 26, 1996). Kurt Freund, 82, notable sexologist.
  12. ^ Kuban, Michael (Summer 2004). Sexual Science Mentor: Dr. Kurt Freund. Sexual Science 45.2
  13. ^ Dr. Vern L Bullough - Publications - Vern Bullough
  14. ^ Mustanski, B.S., Dupree, M. G., Nievergelt, C., Schork, N. J., & Hamer, D. H. (2005). A genomewide linkage scan of male sexual orientation. Human Genetics, 116, 272-278.
  15. ^ Ferretti, A., et al. (2005). Dynamics of male sexual arousal: Distinct components of brain activation revealed by fMRI. NeuroImage, 26, 1086-1096.
  16. ^ Lippa, R. (2007). Guest Editor's introduction to the BBC special section. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 145-145.
  17. ^ Jacqueline Comte. What is Sexology? Accessed 2011-07-07.
  18. ^ Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. London: Penguin (1976/1998)
  19. ^ Humboldt-Universität, Berlin. Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology. Retrieved on November 23, 2007.
  20. ^ Malinowski as "Reluctant Sexologist in Irregular connections, by Andrew Lyons p.155-184 (2004)
  21. ^ The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia Bronislaw Malinowski (1929)(Wikipedia entry on The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia)
  22. ^ McMurry University, Texas Retrieved on July 02, 2009.
  23. ^ "Dr. Vern L Bullough Distinguished Professor Natural and Social Sciences" Retrieved on November 23, 2007.
  24. ^ a b SAGE Journals Online - Sexualities. Retrieved on July 02, 2009.
  25. ^ Marriage Retrieved on July 02, 2009.

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  • sexology — [sek säl′ə jē] n. the science dealing with human sexual behavior sexological adj. sexologist n …   English World dictionary

  • sexology — noun Date: 1902 the study of sex or of the interaction of the sexes especially among human beings • sexologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • sexology — sexological /sek seuh loj i keuhl/, adj. sexologist, n. /sek sol euh jee/, n. the study of sexual behavior. [1900 05; SEX + O + LOGY] * * * …   Universalium

  • sexology — noun The study of sex and sexuality …   Wiktionary

  • sexology — The scientific study of all aspects of sex, including differentiation and dimorphism, and, particularly, sexual behavior. [L. sexus, sex, + G. logos, study] * * * sex·ol·o·gy sek säl ə jē n, pl gies the study of sex or of the interaction of the… …   Medical dictionary

  • sexology — sex|ol|o|gy [ sek salədʒi ] noun uncount the scientific study of people s sexual behavior ╾ sex|ol|o|gist noun count …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • sexology — study of sexual behaviour Sciences and Studies …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • sexology — sex·ol·o·gy || sek sÉ‘lÉ™dʒɪ / sÉ’l n. study of sexual behavior and human sexuality …   English contemporary dictionary

  • sexology — noun the study of human sexual life or relationships. Derivatives sexological adjective sexologist noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • sexology — noun (U) the study of sexual behaviour, especially among humans sexologist noun (C) …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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