In the Victorian Era

In the Victorian Era, women could be placed in mental asylums if they suffered from “nymphomania”, an illness that included enjoyment in sex. It was used as a diagnosis for women who masturbated, were regularly orgasmic during sex, were promiscuous, or suffered from “man-craziness,” a term that referred to a generally flirtatious manner.

In Ancient Greece, “pederasty,” or the sexual love between an adult man and an unrelated adolescent boy, was common practice. It was seen as the highest form of the expression of love between two human beings. It was practiced as a part of a coming-of-age ritual, in educational institutions, or as a part of military training.

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In the Victorian Era
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In 1890, Dr. Adam Clarke is credited as saying, “neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of [masturbation].” A successor of his, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, dedicated his life’s work to preventing masturbation as a means of controlling disease, using such methods as electric shock, application of acid to the genitals, and genital mutilation. His legacy came with his invention of Corn Flakes, a food developed to treat masturbatory impulses.

Reflect on the history of sexual abnormality and connect it to today’s sexual behaviors that may be considered abnormal. What might psychology students of the future chuckle about when reviewing our views of today? (P.S. Lots of students think instantly about current views on homosexuality or gender identity. While these are not necessarily incorrect answers, consider other issues as well.


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