A Revisionist History of Sexuality

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The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality
by Benjamin Kahan
U. of Chicago Press. 232 pages, $22.95

 

 

HISTORIANS are fairly well agreed that Western sexology—the scientific study of human sexuality—arose in the late 19th century. Philosophers since antiquity had theorized about animal reproduction. Worldwide, physicians since late antiquity had written about the treatment of infertility, impotence, genital disorders, and venereal diseases. All variety of writers and illustrators had depicted human sex and the arts of love—on the humblest of walls to the most lavishly illustrated books. However, the emergence of a scientia sexualis as opposed to an ars erotica is largely a 19th-century phenomenon.

         This is one of the most persuasive claims of Michel Foucault in his hugely influential The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (Histoire de la sexualité 1: La volonté de savoir, 1976).

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Vernon Rosario is a historian of sexuality and an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA.

 

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