© 2012

Female Sexual Inversion

Same-Sex Desires in Italian and British Sexology, c. 1870–1920


Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Part I

  3. Part II

  4. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 115-115
    2. Chiara Beccalossi
      Pages 117-146
    3. Chiara Beccalossi
      Pages 147-171
    4. Chiara Beccalossi
      Pages 172-201
    5. Chiara Beccalossi
      Pages 202-216
    6. Chiara Beccalossi
      Pages 217-230
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 231-304

About this book


An examination of how female same-sex desires were represented in a wide range of Italian and British medical writings, 1870-1920. It shows how the psychiatric category of sexual inversion was positioned alongside other medical ideas of same-sex desires, such as the virago, tribade-prostitute, fiamma and gynaecological explanations.


Britain Embodiment female sex nation psychiatric disorder psychology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the History of European DiscoursesUniversity of QueenslandAustralia

About the authors

CHIARA BECCALOSSI is a Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University. She has published a number of articles on the history of sexuality and history of medicine, and is the co-editor of A Cultural History of Sexuality in the Age of Empire (2011) with Ivan Crozier.

Bibliographic information


'Chiara Beccalossi's monograph addresses a huge lacuna in the history of European sexuality: Italian sexology in general, particularly the conceptualization of female same-sex desire . . . Beccalossi has provided a cogent and engaging historical review and analysis of the medical literature. Scholars are particularly indebted to her for shining a light on Italian material.' - Vernon A. Rosario, The American Historical Review

'Chiara Beccalossi makes several important and original contributions to the histories of sexuality and psychiatry. Above all, the author provides the first sustained analysis of medical approaches to female same-sex desires in Italy during this period . . . Her archival research brings to light hitherto unexamined documents and discursive trends . . . It will undoubtedly become a valuable point of reference for researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students in a range of disciplines.' - Charlotte Ross, History of Psychiatry

'Female Sexual Inversion is a very original book that is of considerable interest to historians of sexuality, medicine and the body. One of its key strengths is Beccalossi's critical cross-national approach, which illuminates medical figurations of female same-sex desire, but also offers broader insights into the way in which sexual knowledge was articulated and circulated across national borders. The book also speaks to scholars working in other disciplines, such as literary and cultural studies, where representations of female same-sex desire are of central interest.' - Jana Funke, Social History of Medicine

'This work aims to revise the oversimplification that sees nineteenth-century medicine as a homogenous, monolithic and backward . . . By employing a close reading of medical literature, the author has brought to light and made sense of a huge amount of historical sources.' - Nerina Milletti, Passato e Presente