Skip to content Skip to navigation

Textbooks for the History of Sexuality

Monday, July 13, 2020 - 07:00

I should probably set up a topic-tag for the LHMP for books that are intended either as textbooks or general reference works (e.g., encyclopedia-type texts) because I'm starting to get a number of them and it seems like a category that people might find useful. Not sure how to handle that, because it doesn't really fit with the types of tags I already have set up. But, hey, I can just add it to the "topics" list and sort it out later if I decide to do it differently.

For me, personally, this sort of basic reference work isn't very interesting at this point. I'm always looking for new ideas and new information that I haven't encountered before. But for someone who wants to get a basic grounding in the structure and source materials available for the history of sexuality? This sort of reference may be just the thing.

Major category: 
Full citation: 

Kuefler, Mathew (ed). 2007. The History of Sexuality Sourcebook. Broadview Press, Ontario. ISBN 978-1-55111-738-6

This book would make a good companion to Crawford’s European Sexualities, 1400-1800, covered a couple weeks ago. While Crawford offered an analytic textbook on sexuality in history, Kuefler provides a collection of readings of historic texts (though covering a larger geographic and chronological scope) that demonstrate how sexuality was described, experienced, and managed. Note that, as with Crawford’s work, this is “sexuality” in the broadest sense, encompassing all types of desire and activity, and not “sexuality” in the narrow sense of sexual orientation.

This is an encyclopedia-style collection of texts that speak to specific topics in the history of sexuality. It is far from exhaustive, either in intent or execution, but rather picks specific works to use as discussion or thinking points. It was compiled for use as a set of study texts for a college course on the history of sexuality and that purpose can be seen in the inclusion of study questions after each text.

This summary will note the texts that include content relevant to the LHMP, but I won’t discuss those texts in detail. (Most of them have been covered in other entries in a more analytic form.)

#19 - Plato (5th c BCE, Greece): Aristophanes’ speech from the Symposium that includes the “two halves seeking their other part” model of desire that includes same-sex desire.

#30 - Sappho (7th c BCE, Greece): Several fragments of poems, especially those expressing desire for women.

#68 - Penitential manual (7-8th c CE, England): Examples of penances for fornication, including ones from same-sex activity.

#83 - Bieiris de Romans (12-13th c CE, France): Troubadour love song apparently by a woman to a woman.

#115 - Misc. (19th c France): Medical case studies on the theme of masturbation, including same-sex activity classified as masturbation. Medical interventions to prevent masturbation, including genital mutilation and torture.

#116 - Misc. (19th c France): As a counterpoint to the preceding, recommendation of sexual stimulation to orgasm (including use of a vibrating dildo) as a treatment for “hysteria” in women.

#119 - Krafft-Ebbing (19th c Germany): Case studies of psychological issues attributed to sexual history or to family history of “nervous taint.” The examples include references to cross-dressing, female same-sex desire, and transgender feelings.

#160 - Rekhti erotic poetry (17-18th c India): Excerpts from a genre of erotic poetry describing female same-sex love by traditionally written by male poets.