Sexology: The Science Class You Wish You Had in High School
What if we told you that there’s a science that can boost your sex life, would you sign up for a class?
If you’re curious to know more about what sexology is and how it has brought about changes to the way we live our sex life, read further! We’ve been taking notes!
Sexology: The Basics
Thanks to the Glasgow Women’s Library, we know that the literal definition of sexology is the study of human sexuality that covers topics like puberty, sexual orientation, sexual activity and relationships. This science’ scope is not limited to the medical and biological fields, but it also encompasses psychological and social perspectives into its broader understanding of women and sexuality.
They say knowledge is power. And in this case, it’s the power to take charge of our bodies and sex lives, to empower ourselves. Sexology gives us the opportunity to understand our bodies better, open ourselves up to the multi-faceted world of sexual identities, and figure out the best way to pleasure by improving our sex lives.
Where it All Began
According to the Institute of Sexology, Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Magnus Hirschfeld, and Henry Havelock-Ellis are often viewd as the pioneers of sexology in the late 19th century. In 1886 Krafft-Ebing published Psychopathia Sexualis in which he documented a series of case studies categorizing all “forms of deviant sexuality.” Today, those “deviant” acts are known as BDSM and homosexuality. At the time, it was truly revolutionary and it laid down the foundation for all works of sexology that came after it. This work brought light to the variety of sexualities on the spectrum.
In parallel, sexologists were coming to the realization that sexuality could define you as a person, leading to what we now call your “sexual identity.” Back then, these labels started an era of discrimination and criminalisation against people based on their sexual identity. But by defining them as groups, it also triggered group resistance (always more powerful than played at the sole individual level) fighting for and eventually gaining rights for sexual minorities. The earliest traces of the gay rights movement can be found in this era.
Freud, Pleasure and the Clitoral Orgasm
Freud is a well-known name in both psychology and sexology for his groundbreaking and controversial work. He came up with the idea that the main purpose of sex was for pleasure, going against the long-held belief that it was for procreation. Because of his revolutionary work, the world was now discussing the possibility that it was okay to have sex for pleasure’s sake. Interestingly, this topic remains debated today.
While Freud did bring awareness to the clitoral orgasm, which in itself was very innovative, he also characterized it as childish, erasing in the process any progress he had brought in the realm of women’s sexuality. He also claimed that masturbation in women made them hysterical…
Kinsey and Masters & Johnson Get Personal
After Freud’s work in the 1920s, come the next sexology revolutionaries Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s and 50s, and William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the 1960s. These sexologists have had a major impact on modern sexology as we know it today.
Alfred Kinsey wrote a revolutionary book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. In this book, he showed how normal gay behavior, oral sex, and premarital sex were amongst the average population.
Masters and Johnson’s book was titled Human Sexual Response, and popularized the idea of the “sexual response cycle.” This cycle involves naming the four stages of arousal and orgasm. These stages are, “excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.” They all have their own physical distinctions including a flushed chest and muscle contractions. The sexologists discovered these findings by studying thousands of participants who masturbated and had sex in their lab.
Masters and Johnson also made the extraordinary discovery that many women need external clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm, which was not even on people’s radar before then. They found that clitoral and vaginal orgasms elicited the same physiological response in women. We have Masters & Johnson to thank for the much needed popularization of the clitoris. With their research, women can have a better understanding of how their bodies work during orgasm and how to find pleasure for themselves.
The Impact of Sexology on Women in Society
Thanks to sexology and researchers in the field, women’s sexuality is now a more talked about topic.
Sexology has also created major changes for the role of women in society. Up until the 1960s, women’s gender roles were clearly laid out for them. According the Glasgow Women’s Library these roles involved taking care of the home, the husband, and bearing children as the primary focuses in a woman’s life. After several decades of sexology research, it’s now socially acceptable to say that women’s sexuality has a lot to do with pleasure, and less to do with procreation and men. After all, the clitoris seems to serve only one purpose: pleasure.
With the revolutionary discoveries about pleasure and the human body sexologists, women now have a better understanding of their bodies and how they work. We now know more about the clitoris and its role in orgasm than ever before. This revelation in women’s pleasure has led to better sex for women, healthier psychology and an overall healthier sex life.
Today the hub of sexology and sex research can be found at NATSAL in the UK. They study the ways in which sex reflects on the impact of history and the way societies understand sex today. They record changes in society’s feelings towards sexuality, and how we’ve become more open to accepting different sexual identities and women’s sexual freedom as a whole.
One of their most recent surveys, which happen every ten years, reports that 42% of men and 51% of women have said they have a sexual problem. Sexual problems are defined as some difficulty with one of the four areas of the sexual response cycle, intercourse or orgasms. If you are experiencing difficulty in your sex life, know you’re not alone! We are know able to better understand the root cause of sexual problems and difficulties thanks to the research done by sexologists like Kinsey and Masters and Johnson.
There you have it, the history of sexology in a nutshell. As you can see, sexology is a science that plays a social role and can have a very real impact on our lives. Thanks to the sexologists who documented it scientifically, sexology has liberated women’s sexuality and pleasure from undocumented dogma. Sex is something we all think about a lot, and sexology is a reliable way to find answers to our questions, to know ourselves better and eventually, feel better.
Interested in sexual wellness? Check out our blog!
The Smile Makers Team!