Sexual Teachings of Richard Von Krafft-Ebing

About the sexual teaching of Richard Von Krafft-Ebing who found most sexual behavior bad and possible criminal.



(1840-1902), Germany

The bogeyman of modern sexologists, right-winger Krafft-Ebing saw most sex as evil, perhaps because most of his experience with it (at least that which did not concern himself) came from his study of court cases involving sex crimes. For example, he identified masturbation as an underlying factor in sex deviation, even rape-murders, and felt it led to insanity. Sexual desire in the old, he said, was a possible "precursor of senile dementia."

His book Psychopathia Sexualis, written when he was 46, has (in spite of its Latin title) been considered a sexual thriller. Not long ago, it was advertised in a mail-order catalog in an almost pornographic manner: "Startling case histories of unnatural sex practices, weird autoerotic methods, sex--lust--torture--much, much more! Many of the hundreds of sex case histories are from secret files and hushed-up court proceedings. Monstrous, strange, almost unbelievable sex acts! For mature adults only!"

Krafft-Ebing, who would have been horrified to read that ad, came from an aristocratic family in Mannheim, Germany. When he went to Heidelberg University, he lived with his mother's brother, a famous lawyer, and through him became interested in sex crimes. This led him to study medicine, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. By the time he was 29, he had become a professor of psychiatry at the German University of Strasbourg, and in the last years of his life he was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vienna, a most prestigious position. Throughout his life, he was a psychiatric consultant to courts in Germany and Austria, and he was sometimes called in as an expert witness in sex-crime trials in other countries.

Not much is known of his own sex life except that he married late in life.


In the preface of Psychopathia Sexualis, Krafft-Ebing wrote: "A scientific title has been chosen and technical terms are used throughout the book in order to exclude the lay reader; for the same reason certain portions are written in Latin."

The main point of the book is: Most sex is bad. Krafft-Ebing divides the badness into four major categories, basing his conclusions on criminal cases, medical literature, and information from his colleagues: (1) Fetishism. The sufferer, always male, is sexually aroused by a part of the body, clothing, material like fur, and so on. Krafft-Ebing identified shoe fetishism as masochistic; it represented being "stepped on." (2) Homosexuality. He attributed homosexuality to "antipathetic sexual instinct" and included in the category transsexuals and transvestites. He felt that homosexuality could be either inborn or acquired. (3) Sadism. Here he covered a range from the infliction of slight pain to lust-murder. (4) Masochism. Krafft-Ebing said that masochism was the opposite of sadism.

In the book he also discussed other deviations, such as nymphomania, exhibitionism, and voyeurism. Though he hit upon some truths--that women past menopause feel sexual desire, for example--in most cases his assumptions about sex are no longer considered valid.

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