History of Sex Surveys: Studies in the Psychology of Sex Part 2

About a survey by Henry Havelock Ellis from the early 1900s called Studies in the Psychology of Sex, his findings on a range of sexual issues.


Findings: In light of more recent sex research, Ellis's findings were accurate in many instances. He was the 1st to advance the following theories:

That sexual awareness and responses often appear in childhood.

That masturbation is common to both sexes, and its harmfulness questionable.

That girls mature physically at an earlier age than boys, but boys reach a peak of sexual activity earlier than girls.

That homosexuality and heterosexuality are not absolutes, but exist in varying degrees in different individuals.

That the absence of sexual desire among women was a Victorian myth, and that some women are more highly sexed than men, capable even of initiating sex relations.

That there are more similarities than differences in male and female orgasms.

That women, as well as men, experience orgasms during sleep--especially if the women are older and sexually experienced.

That the ability to enjoy multiple orgasms is not unusual in women.

That the causes of impotence in men and frigidity in women are usually psychological, rather than physiological.

That the 2 major causes of frigidity in women are the repression of sexuality in the formative growing-up years, and the clumsiness and ignorance of the male partner.

That monthly cyclical factors influence the degree of sexual responsiveness in women.

That many men and women remain sexually active well past middle age, and he cited the case of a woman in her 70s, recently married, "who declared that both desire and gratification were as great, if not greater, than before the menopause."

Conclusions: Ellis's writings are more literary than scientific, based as they are on a great body of sexual facts rather haphazardly collected. Basically, his theme was that the range of variation in sexual behavior within normal limits is immense, and that arbitrary standards cannot be applied to this area of human experience.

Public Reaction: The Psychology of Sex was intended primarily for scientific readers, but when Sexual Inversion, the 1st volume to be published, appeared, it was suppressed as obscene. A bookseller who had sold it was brought to trial. When the defense attorney contended that the book had scientific value, the judge called his argument "a pretence, adopted for the purpose of selling a filthy publication." The remaining volumes were published in the U.S., but even here, until 1935, they were available only to the medical profession. The work helped break the conspiracy of silence that had long stifled open discussion of sexual problems.

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