On This Day - 14th August 1840: Richard von Krafft Ebing born

Although not as sensationalist as the famous Sigmund Freud born sixteen years later, the career of Richard von Krafft Ebing in sexology was not without its legacies. The terms sadism and masochism were popularised through his book, Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie (or in English, Fifty Shades of Grey). 

Richard von Krafft-Ebing

Richard von Krafft Ebing
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

His books were all about the mental state of sex criminals and what repercussions this had for any legal judgement. He viewed sex as being purely for procreational purposes and any pursual of the activity above and beyond this necessity were perverse. Although this seems a bit bonkers now, back in the day this view was far from unusual. This also meant that he classed homosexual behaviour as a deviance from normality and his book was one of the very first to discuss homosexuality academically. Unlike many contemporaries, who viewed homosexuality as a psychological problem, he developed the theory that homosexuality began in the embryonic stage and was known as a sexual inversion of the brain. Still alarmingly negative for an allegedly educated man but at least he wasn’t arguing that it was a choice or an illness. All in all, thanks to Freud, a lot of his views have been largely forgotten over the years but it is still an interesting snap shot into 19th century views on sex. 

© Isla Robertson 2017