Isn’t it funny how little we know about sex and sexuality? We talk about it constantly since it’s so important to us, but we mostly keep dancing in the dark, throwing out empty phrases and superficial ideas. When you give it some more thought, all we can say for certain is that sex is a currency that’s been in use ever since the beginning of time.
We use all things sexual to discuss morality, physicality, and psychology. Nevertheless, it seems like we often lose sight of how concrete it is. To describe something, people tend to cancel its opposite — for example, gender and sexual orientation. The same goes for fantasies, kinks, and fetishes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
To better understand sex, we need to delve into psychology. So, who can we ask about this topic? Who seems to know it best? Well, in our eyes, there are no better addresses than those of some of the most famous sex psychologists of all time. In the following text, we’ll look into what the likes of Sigmund Freud and company have to say.
Born in 1894 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Alfred Kinsey was a trained biologist. However, he became famous much later in his life, in the 1940s and 1950s, when the two of his books became bestsellers. The pair of books were all about male and female sexual behavior, accordingly titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Female.
The reason he’s first on our list is that he defended his controversial findings on scientific ground. Namely, he said that, unlike with other species, we know practically nothing about the sexual behavior of the human race. His eye-opening findings come from thousands of personal interviews with both men and women.
Kinsey took a revolutionary approach during his research. Not surprising, his trained researchers would have trouble conducting their interviews with people due to the social stigma surrounding sex. However, Kinsey would help people relax by creating a chilled atmosphere, allowing them to ease into the subject.
One of the most controversial topics that he would discuss in his work was child abuse. Kinsey would conduct interviews with pedophiles, trying to understand how their mind works. He died in 1956 but is still in the top echelon of American psychologists, and his findings paved the way for a broader conversation about a tricky subject such as sex.
When it comes to understanding sex, there’s no one more quoted than the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Although many of his theories are subject to debate and revision, the essence of his findings remains. Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in the early 1900s. Since then, most of the ideas he propelled have been and still are significant contributions to the field of sex in psychology.
Most of the stuff that he talks about involves child development. Namely, what we know as fetishes, perversions, and kinks today are infant ideas of sexual pleasure. They remain in our subconscious, so we keep these desires intact when we mature. As such, mature human behavior regarding sexual intercourse mimics that of our earliest fantasies. And regardless of whether we fulfill them intimately, we persist in putting them out, e.g., in the form of art.
Although most of us know only of Freud when it comes to sex and psychology, he wasn’t the only revolutionary psychologist of the early 20th century. In fact, Magnus Hirschfeld was one of the first to conduct psychological studies about sex by opening his Institute for Sexual Science between the two world wars in Weimar Germany. There, he would treat both physical and psychological disorders that were sexual in males and females alike.
One of Hirschfeld’s most revolutionary ideas for the time was to decriminalize homosexuality. Back then, being gay wasn’t legal. And if you expressed your sexual orientation publically, you would face harsh consequences. Unfortunately, his institute would shortly come to an end as he would flee to Paris due to being Jewish and Nazis burning most of his work in the late 1930s. Nevertheless, they couldn’t erase his name and findings, which are still in use today.
Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebin
Next up on our list, we have Richard von Krafft-Ebing. He was yet another German who would tackle the subject of human sexuality in a revolutionary way for his time. A man of the late 19th century, von Krafft-Ebing was a key figure in bringing perversions to the table of discussion. Before his work, most psychologists would disregard them as yet another form of insanity. However, he would encourage sex therapy instead of imprisonment.
His seminal work is Psychopathia Sexualis from 1886, which aims to demystify sexual perversions. The first issue of the book consisted of merely 50 cases of different types of sexual fetishes. He would gather them all by conducting interviews with people who didn’t have a problem talking about their intimacy. Yet, as the years went by, von Krafft-Ebing would publish newer editions with more cases, including morbid desires such ad necrophilia.
Robert Latou Dickinson
Human development wouldn’t be the same throughout the 20th century if it wasn’t for Robert Dickinson. Another person on this list that was born in New Jersey, Dickinson practiced gynecology up until his late 20s. During that time, he would keep suggesting that most human problems are rooted in sexual issues and disorders. His work would influence Alfred Kinsey, who we mentioned earlier on this list.
But why is he important like the rest of the people here? Well, Robert Dickinson would debunk numerous sexual myths that were popular in his lifetime. One such myth was about the penis and cervix interlocking during intercourse. Interestingly enough, he was the doctor that would officially document the world’s largest penis — 13.5 inches (ca. 34 cm) in length and 6.25 inches (ca. 16 cm) round.
How Did Their Studies Help Understand Sexual Behavior?
Although we’ve come a long way in terms of accepting sex talk from what was socially fit in the 19th century, our cheeks still blush when someone mentions the birds and the bees. However, without any of these men, we wouldn’t know pretty much a thing about sex, sexuality, and fetishes. Moreover, we’d still consider homosexuality a disorder and various quirks as clear signs of someone being clinically insane.
It’s okay to say that this subject is still as open to new ideas and theories as ever. After all, which subject isn’t? We accept that we don’t know everything and we won’t in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t openly talk about sex as it concerns all of us. From people who enjoy vanilla stuff and see sex only as a way to procreate to those who swim in the waters of kinks and fetishes — it’s important to talk about it.