Italy: The Fashionable Psychiatric Disorder of Sexual Inversion and other Medical Embodiments of Same-Sex Desires

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


In the second half of the nineteenth century, medical sexual knowledge was characteristically international, so that it was common for physicians to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in medical science from the United States and European countries. Despite such internationalism, each country formulated its own autonomous medical discourses. While it was not until the late 1890s that Ellis started to systematically study sexual inversion in Britain, the Italian case was completely different: Arrigo Tamassia had introduced the subject in the late 1870s, which triggered the publication of a considerable number of medical articles on the subject of sexual inversion between 1878 and 1890, plus numerous reviews of foreign and Italian works. From the mid-1880s onwards, the complex nosologies articulated by psychiatric treatises consistently referred to sexual inversion as a distinct mental disorder, so that same-sex desires were no longer interpreted as a symptom of other diseases, which had been the predominant interpretation in earlier decades. In the 1890s, this phenomenon was followed by an explosion of studies on sexual perversion, with numerous book-length scientific studies dedicated to the topic.1 Pioneering historical research such as that of Giovanni Dall’Orto and Nerina Milletti has identified a number of medical works from this period that engage with same-sex desires. Roughly half of these medical studies addressed the question of female same-sex desires.


Nineteenth Century Female Offender Medical Writer Psychiatric Manual Italian Psychiatrist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Chiara Beccalossi 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Beccalossi
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for the History of European DiscoursesUniversity of QueenslandAustralia

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