chapter  9
20 Pages

Imagining Perversion

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, in his influential study of perversion Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), pleaded Tew people ever fully appreciate the powerful influence that sexuality exercises over feeling, thought, and conduct'. 'The importance of the subject demands', he explained, 'that it should be examined scientifically.'1 Many took up his challenge. By some estimates there were more than 10,000 monographs and articles relating to sexuality published in German alone between 1886 and 1933, 1,000 on homosexuality between 1898 and 1908.2 In turn the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries have been of intense interest for historians of sexuality. For Steven Marcus, this period represents the moment when Freud was able to wash away the ignorance of the Victorian repression. Commonly historians have seen the pioneers of sexology, such as Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Magnus Hirschfeld and Sigmund Freud, as the progenitors of modern scientific understandings of sexuality.3 More recently, historians such as John D 'Emi l io and Estelle Freedman, have seen this period ushering in the 'sexual liberalism' of the 1920s.4