Stepchildren of Nature  

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"Are [ transsexuals ], as the Foucaultian interpretation would have it, trapped in a medical discourse through which not only power relations and social control of deviant sexualities but also sexual objects themselves are constituted? The radical implication of Foucault’s reasoning is that before, say, 1870, deviants like homosexuals, masochists, fetishists, and transsexuals did not exist, nor did their counterparts, “normal” heterosexuals." --Stepchildren of Nature (2000) by Harry Oosterhuis, page 11

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Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity (2000) is a book by Harry Oosterhuis on Krafft-Ebing and his Psychopathia Sexualis.

On nosology:

"Also, French specialists on sexual deviance tended to classify all perversions under a single nosological entity, be it inversion (Charcot and Magnan) or fetishism (Binet), whereas central European psychiatrists, like Krafft-Ebing, in generally isolated the numerous disorders in various subclassifications."

On innate goodness vs. innate cruelty.

"On the one hand, leading Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot (1713—1784) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712—1778) believed that unspoiled nature offered a foundation for both moral behavior and harmonious relations between the individual and society.
On the other hand, the Marquis Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade (1740—1814), Baron Paul Dietrich d'Holbach (1723—1789), Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1741—1803), and others argued that nature was profoundly riven by inner tensions, contradictions, and disruptive forces: natural drives were ethically neutral or even blindly amoral and thus could not provide a foundation on which to build a peaceful society."


Psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) played a key role in the construction of the modern concept of sexuality. As the author of the famous Psychopathia sexualis, he named and classified virtually all nonprocreative sexualities, synthesizing knowledge on sadism, masochism, fetishism, homosexuality, and exhibitionism. His influence on the study of sexuality cannot be overstated, but it is often misunderstood. In the wake of Michel Foucault's influential sexual histories, Krafft-Ebing is often maligned as a contributor to the repressed Victorian construction of sexual deviancy.

But in this powerful new cultural history Harry Oosterhuis invites us to reconsider the quality and extent of Krafft-Ebing's influence. Revisiting the case studies on which Krafft-Ebing based his findings, and thus drawing on the voices of his patients and informants, Oosterhuis finds that Krafft-Ebing was not the harsh judge of perversions that we think he was. He argues that Krafft-Ebing had a deep appreciation of the psyche, and that his work reveals an attempt to separate sexual deviancies from ideas of immorality. In the tradition of Freud, then, Krafft-Ebing should stand not as a villain, but as a contributor to more modern notions of sexual identity.

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