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Chapter 2

SOCIOL 3U03 Chapter 2: Science of Sexuality

Course Code
Tina Fetner

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Chapter #: 2
Chapter Title: The Science of Sexuality
Alfred Kinsey
Became the leading sex researcher in 20th century America
Born to a devout and sexually repressed Methodist family
Invited to coordinate a course on marriage and family in the late 1930s
Course became very popular with students due to his progressive take
Understanding Sexuality Through Science
Theories of sexuality help us understand human sexuality and put it in a historical and
social context
Sexology: the science of sex
Originated in Europe
A major area of academic and scientific study for the past 200 years
Uses systematic, objective methods to gather data about human sexual behaviour
The term ‘sexology’ is no longer in use today
Prior to the 19th century, sexuality in Western culture was a moral concern
Dominant authorities on morality and sexuality were priests and religious leaders
Sexuality associated with primal, bodily instincts, and considered sinful
Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis
Eve ate the forbidden fruit and was punished by God
God created pain in childbirth and proclaimed that men rule over them
Awakened Adam and Eve’s sinful nature
Inspired a range of theological views about gender roles and sexuality
E.g. women are temptresses, men and women are morally weak, men should
preside over women
St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas determined sex was only acceptable in marriage
Religious views remained most influential until the mid-1800s
Influence of medicine, reason, and science gained more credibility and power
Physicians took over as sexual authorities from religious leaders
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Learning Outcomes:
• Explain 19th and 20th century theoretical perspectives on sexuality
• Understand the social construction of sexuality
• Explicate the shifting scientific understandings of homosexuality
!Describe the history of sexuality studies in academia
• Debate ethical and methodological issues in sex research

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Victorian ideals encourage women and men to practice sexual discipline, to only
engage in sex with marriage partner for the purpose of procreation
Treated the primary sexual problems of the era from a moral and partisan bias
Multiple assumptions about men and women’s sexuality led to the idea that women
must tame the men’s passionate sexual nature
Women’s bodies and sexualities were ignored and misunderstood e.g. Hysteria
Hysteria was a medical diagnosis with symptoms consistent with what’s considered
normal functioning of female sexual arousal
Treatment was orgasm either from sex with husband or massage by doctor
The vibrator was created in the 1880s for the purpose of treating hysteria
1952 - hysteria was dropped as a medical term by the American Psychiatric Association
Richard von Krafft-Ebing
One of the most prominent early sex researchers
Wrote “Psychopathia Sexualis”
Empirical collection of clinical case studies
Portrayed nonprocreative sex as pathological and perverse
4 primary categories of sexual deviation: homosexuality, fetishism, sadism, masochism
One of the first texts to equate ‘heterosexual sex’ with ‘normal sex’
By the late 19th century, physicians and scientists examined and classified sexual behaviours
that were previously invisible
German physician Iwan Bloch coined the term ‘sexual science’
His work focused on the history of sexuality
May be called the first sexologist
Used scientific research methods (e.g. case studies, observations, interviews)
The goal was to discover the laws that govern human sexuality
Sexologists questioned why humans have specific sexual instincts, desires, pleasures
Havelock Ellis
British sexologist
Transitional figure between Victorian and modern perspectives on sexuality
Studied all available info on sexuality and engaged in research for decades
Research was published in 6 volumes between 1896 and 1910
Accepted a variety of sexual practices and behaviours, and recognized the right of
women to sexual satisfaction
One of the first theorists to argue against the notion that homosexuality was immoral
Credited with introducing the notions of narcissism and autoeroticism
Autoeroticism: satisfaction gained by the subject’s own body
Magnus Hirschfeld
German researcher
Founded the first Institute for Sexology in Berlin (1919)
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