Highlights from the history of sexual medicine

J Sex Med. 2010 Jun;7(6):2031-2043. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01866.x.


Introduction: Today, we have a clear concept of sexual medicine and how to define this medical discipline. But historically, the unification of sexuality and medicine was not a given condition. Medicine was mainly focused on human reproduction and how to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases. Hardly any other aspect would have met the interest of medical doctors for centuries.

Methods: Historical review that can only highlight developments and milestones of sexual medicine and is not intended to be encyclopedic.

Results: Perhaps, the first true medicalization of sexuality was the dreadful anti-masturbation campaign led by doctors, beginning with Tissot, since the middle of the 18th century. In the 2nd half of the 19th century, first pioneers like the physician Paolo Mantagazza were systematically addressing issues related to human sexuality. This highly developing scientific field and medical community were destroyed after 1933 by the political influence of the national socialists in Europe. After World War II, a new era started with the works of Alfred Kinsey and other sexologists mainly in the United States of America.

Conclusions: The term sexual medicine was established around 1970, most likely in Europe, and subsequently resulted in a new worldwide academic and clinical speciality.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Female
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Sexology / history*
  • Sexuality / history*
  • United States