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date: 06 May 2021

Push and Pull: Biological and Psychological Models of Sexuality in Medical Sexology and Psychoanalysis (1870–1930)locked

  • Harry OosterhuisHarry OosterhuisDepartment of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University


Sexual science or sexology arose in the last three decades of the 19th century when psychiatrists and neurologists began to study and treat deviant sexualities as sickly “perversions.” The new science of experimental psychology did not engage with this morally contested subject. Research into sexuality was rooted in a biomedical and clinical approach. All the same, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some medical experts increasingly explained perversion as well as regular sexuality in a psychological way. This trend was intertwined with the changing definition of sexuality as either a pushing or a pulling force, which pertained not only to biological versus psychological interpretations, but also to the contrast between nature and culture, male and female sexuality, and pessimistic and optimistic evaluations. All of this has contributed to the shaping of the modern concept and experience of sexuality and also to its sociopolitical regulation in the 20th-century Western world.

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