Queer 1950s pp 133-149 | Cite as

Sexology Backward: Hirschfeld, Kinsey and the Reshaping of Sex Research in the 1950s

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


In histories of modern sexology, the 1950s commonly figure as a point of rupture. The decade is seen to mark a shift in sexological research from the medico-forensic and gay rights debates of turn-of-the-century Europe, which had culminated in Magnus Hirschfeld’s founding of the world’s first Institute of Sexual Sciences in Berlin in 1919, to the large-scale studies of ‘American’ sexual behaviour conducted by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues at Indiana University.1 Critical histories of different national sexological traditions have productively examined the pre-war German and postwar American sexologies separately,2 reflecting the fact that where Hirschfeld was concerned with the subcultural and the transgressive in studies such as Die Transvestiten [The Transvestites] (1910) and Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes (1914) [Homosexuality of Man and Woman], Kinsey, in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), popularised and mainstreamed sex research by focusing on issues of the ‘normal’ and the average.3 But if the postwar period is indeed the moment in which the centre of sexological knowledge production changed direction as it shifted across time and space, then this process is marked as much by its continuities with the immediate past as it is by our retrospective reading of sex research in the 1950s in terms of newness, change and anticipation.


Sexual Behavior Postwar Period Male Homosexuality German Context Global Horizon 
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© Heike Bauer and Matt Cook 2012

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  • Heike Bauer

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