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Sexuality in the Early 20th Century

1910

Paul Ehrlich discovered Salvarsan, the first effective treatment for Syphilis, based on arsenic. Up until this point the treatment of choice was mercury, which effectively poisoned the patient, being completely toxic. It became the therapy of choice until penicillin was discovered in 1940, and there was finally a cure for this fearful and fatal sexually transmitted disease.

1921

The first epidural was done by Dr Fidel Pages in Madrid, Spain, which brought in a new era of birth without pain. It is done by injecting anesthesia into a space next to the spinal cord, which leaves a woman with the ability to feel pressure and a need to push, but no pain.

1928

D.H. Lawrence`s “Lady Chatterley`s Lover” was first published in Florence. It was immediately banned in Britain and the US on account of its sexual content. At the time, the book was considered the most erotic book ever published in English. It tells of an affair between the aristocratic Constance Chatterley and the gamekeeper at her and her paraplegic husband`s country estate. In 1960, long after Lawrence`s death in 1930, this classic book was finally published in an unexpurgated edition, following a groundbreaking trial redefining obscenity. Lady Chatterley is still banned in China.

1935

Synthetic Testosterone was produced by Butenandt and Ruzicka. Up until now, all available testosterone came from animals, which made it very expensive fand kept it in short supply – for medicinal purposed only. The synthetization of testosterone earned these chemists a Nobel Prize.

1948

Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, a groundbreaking study of 5,300 sexual case histories that shocked the world and opened new avenues in the study of human sexology.

Among the finds were:

  • 95% of American males were sexually actively age 15
  • The “average” single American male had 3 to 4 orgasms a week
  • By age 21, 37% of his subjects admitted to having had a homosexual experience
  • By age 35, 70% of his subjects had had sex with a prostitute

This study was followed in 1953 with Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It caused even harsher criticism and lost him the funding of the Rothschild Foundation who had supported his work at Indiana University.

1950

The G-Spot is first recognized in a medical paper by Dr. Ernest Grafenberg. He described the area of about 2.5cm (1″) along the front of the vagina, where stimulation aroused women independently of clitoral stimulation.

The name ‘G-Spot’ was given after Grafenberg, by Alice Kahn Ladas, Beverly Whipple and John D. Perry in their book “The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality”, first published in 1982.

1953

Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, a follow-up on his groundbreaking study on males (1948). It caused even harsher criticism than his previous book and lost him the funding of the Rothschild Foundation who had supported his work at Indiana University.

The study showed the vast range of diversity of female sexual behaviour and tastes, including:

  • More oral sex was associated with higher education
  • 28% of his subjects had had sex with another woman
  • Extra-marital sex was far more common than had been acknowledged

1957

In Apartheid South Africa, the Immorality Amendment Act was enacted, in which sex between a white person and a person of another race (African, Coloured or Indian) was made criminal. These acts were defined as “unlawful carnal intercourse” or any “immoral or indecent act”. Non-South Africans were exempt from this law, but only if both partners were foreigners.


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