History | 20th Century Sex Research & Sexual Cultures
J300 | 22077 | J. Allen


Above section open to History majors only
Above section COLL intensive writing section
Above section open to undergraduates only

Havelock Ellis predicted that the twentieth century would be “the
century of sex.”  The new term, “sexuality” attained wider Euro-
American use, as unprecedented research into erotic behaviors and
sexual subcultures/identities emerged from the life sciences, social
sciences, and humanities, as well as from clinical professions.  At
the turn of the century, a German research tradition dominated,
stressing sexual pathology, dysfunction, or “perversion.”  With the
Nazi suppression of European sexology, research momentum moved to
Anglophone nations, especially Britain and the United States.

The consumerist urban culture of the 1920s and 1930s, with shell-
shocked veterans, flappers, cinema, glamour, smaller families,
rising divorce rates, and visible homosexuality exercised not only
conventional cultural authorities, such as organized religion, but
also academic researchers and clinicians.   Sex researchers, with
the support of private foundations, began to address sexual patterns
and experiences of ordinary population groups.  From a focus on
spouses (e.g. Marie Stopes, Married Love (1918) and Enduring Passion
(1928)), the field developed wider conceptions of the mission and
appropriate methodologies.  Alfred C. Kinsey’s wartime and postwar
work here at Indiana University until his untimely death in 1956
epitomized the shift to the study of sexuality at large.  Plagued by
Cold War controversy, post-Kinsey sex researchers often sought
respectability,  even amidst the so-called Sexual Revolution of the
1960s and 1970s and William Masters and Virginia Johnson’s
physiological research on sexual functioning and the proliferation
of sexual identity politics.  In the wake of the 1980s and 1990s
AIDS pandemic and the increasing medicalization of the study of
sexuality, the century ended with the launch of Viagra in 1999, in a
renewed focus upon sexual dysfunction.

The course will consist of seminar discussions, film clips,
discussions, and readings.  We will analyze twentieth century sex
researchers’ contributions and influence in their own cultural
context, and beyond.  Several books and collections of primary
sources will be available, and students will make use of the
resources of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and
Reproduction in developing research and writing projects.   There
will be written work in the form of preparation and discussion
participation notes, one historiographical paper, essay exams, and a
research essay.