Forthcoming in HHS: Sexology and erotic print culture, Kinsey and the psychoanalysts

Two pieces forthcoming in History of the Human Sciences will be of interest to AHP readers. Details below.

More than a case of mistaken identity: Adult entertainment and the making of early sexology,” Sarah Bull. Abstract:

Sexology emerged as a discipline during a period of keen concern about the social effects of sexually explicit media. In this context, sex researchers and their allies took pains to establish the respectability of their work, a process that often involved positioning sexual science in opposition to erotic literature and images. This article argues that this presentation of sexual science obfuscated sex researchers’ complex relationship with erotic print culture, which during the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided sexual scientists with access to explicit material that served as evidence for theories about human sexuality, facilitated transnational exchanges of sexual-scientific thought by bringing sex research across borders, and introduced sex research to wider audiences. Erotic print culture can thus be seen as one of several fields that contributed to the interdisciplinary development of sexology and facilitated the diffusion of sexual-scientific theories. Sex researchers’ shifting, often ambivalent relationship with erotic print and its producers emphasizes that while the boundaries of sexology were extremely porous, they were also heavily policed: Working to establish a modern, respectable new branch of science, sexual scientists reframed the output of other fields of enquiry as products of their own, blotted their reliance on these sources from the historical record, and denigrated them in public writing.

Kinsey and the psychoanalysts: Cross-disciplinary knowledge production in post-war US sex research,” Katie Sutton. Abstract:

The historical forces of war and migration impacted heavily on the disciplinary locations, practitioners, and structures of sexology and psychoanalysis that had developed in the first decades of the 20th century. By the late 1940s, the US was fast becoming the world centre of each of these prominent fields within the modern human sciences. During these years, the work of Alfred C. Kinsey and his team became synonymous with a distinctly North American brand of empirical sex research. This article offers the most nuanced account to date of the shifting relationship between these two fields in the late 1940s to mid 1950s. It argues that this was more collaborative and mutually influential than previous historians have assumed, even as, following the publication of the first ‘Kinsey report’, tensions grew between the Indiana team and the conservative brand of psychoanalysis that by this stage dominated 1950s North American psychiatry. A keen sense of professional competitiveness accelerated the growing split between these two fields, as Kinsey’s team developed a distinctly modern, technologized brand of statistically oriented sexology that contrasted with the older patient case history, and assumed a very different approach to conservative analysts on ideas of homosexuality and ‘normal’ sexual behaviour. Yet this story of divergence is also tempered through consideration of other aspects of ‘situated knowledge’ such as religion and gender identity, even as accounts of cross-disciplinary competitiveness are expanded by contrasting Kinsey’s positions on psychoanalysis with those of contemporaries such as Harry Benjamin.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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