Sexology is the scientific study of sexual interests, behavior, and function. In modern sexology, researchers apply tools from several academic fields, including biology, medicine, psychology, statistics, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, and criminology. It 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, the handicapped, children, and the elderly. Sexologists study sexual dysfunctions, disorders, and variations, such as erectile dysfunction, pedophilia, and sexual orientation. Sexological findings can become controversial when they contradict mainstream, religious, or political beliefs.
While there are works dedicated towards sex in antiquity, the scientific study of sexual behavior began in the 19th century. Shifts in European 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
In 1897, Havelock Ellis, a British sexologist, co-authored the first English medical text book on homosexuality, Sexual inversion (Das Konträre Geschlechtsgefühle). (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.
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.
In 1913, the first academic association was founded: the Society for Sexology.
Sigmund Freud developed a theory of sexuality 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 collections of art and another objects. The Institute and its library were destroyed by the Nazi's less than three months after they took power, May 8, 1933. 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).
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.
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.
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.
See also: Category:Sexologists
This is a list of sexologists and notable contributors to the field of sexology, by year of birth: