Psychopathia sexualis by Dr. Friedrich S. Krauss (English text)

From MAP Wiki

This is a translation of Psychopathia sexualis by Dr. Friedrich S. Krauss, which contains the first known mention of the word "paraphilia" that he coined. The original article was published in Wiener Klinische Rundschau, Volume 17, on August 2, 1903. The translation was made by Death.

Psychopathia sexualis.

A report by Dr. Friedrich S Krauss.

We humans differ from other creatures by a tendency towards mysticism, very much to our detriment. Our science is still badly stuck in belief. Or rather, where the inner connection between cause and effect is not clear to us, we like to create a belief, pass it off as knowledge and science and sometimes identify ourselves with it so strongly that we regard anyone who doesn’t take our faith at face value as insulting our greatness, as a blasphemer and an unscientific man.

The followers of Krafft-Ebings and the confused Cesare Lombroso could easily be inclined to slander someone like Iwan Bloch, for example. He’s one of those people who don’t believe in authority and for whom an oath isn’t evidence. He is content merely to research the phenomenal world in all directions in order to collect as much factual material as possible and to arrange it in such a way that things explain one another of their own accord. He is one of those who are convinced that we cannot know more than nature teaches us and that understanding nature is already a big deal. According to this method, which is that of the ethnologists and folklorists, he had to become a revolutionary. He does away with Köhler-esque beliefs and does not create new ones in their place. In this way he brought about a work(1) that gives enormous advances to ethnology and is well suited to being of immense use to doctors as well, as it broadens their perspective for the consideration of general human instincts and inclinations to the highest degree. Bloch is one of those doctors who can be mentioned in the same breath as Max Bartels and Max Höfler. They don't just focus on the sick or infected person, but on the person as a person, and they know that the essential thing is the light, not the shadow. Once the fear of the innovator has been overcome, Dr. Bloch's work will be found in the library of every doctor and folklorist; for the subject which it treats is the most important in human existence, namely the sexual impulse. The term "psychopathia sexualis" already contains a ready judgment in itself, and therefore isn’t suitable for scientific work. On the other hand, a phrase like “sexual intercourse that excludes procreation” would be correct. Von Krafft-Ebing soon called someone who did not set out to make children and satisfied his lust in uncommon ways of copulation perverse, just as Lombroso has the dishonorable name of a criminal ready for anyone who does not conduct his life impeccably according to Italian law. Translated into the trivial, this is the point of view of a certain Viennese “author”, a fortunately relatively unknown chatterbox. If a book seller stumbles into a notorious night café with his burden, the writers whose books he is selling are immoral fellows whom she, Mrs. X.Y.Z., would like to steer out of literature [1]. If one reads the gossip of this or similar women, one understands that so many men like to regard the woman only as a sex object, and finally one also understands the morbidly increased aversion of many sensitive men to any intercourse with women. This certainly not incidental element was overlooked by Dr. Bloch in his Aetiology.

The work is divided into two stylistically not entirely identical parts, the second of which is more carefully polished than the first. Even though the literary isn’t of much importance in purely scientific works, I must point this out here; for Bloch is also a master of the art of depiction similar to Hyrt and the reading of his writings, e.g. the work on the origin of syphilis(2), also gives one an aesthetic satisfaction. In regard to etiology, the huge amount of material positively outgrew the author. Even if he was able to work on it scientifically, he did not stylistically conquer it in a completely satisfactory manner. In reality, each volume constitutes only one chapter, separated almost arbitrarily by asterisks into subsections, the ordering of which may not always be perfect. But in a work provided with such excellent registers, this is certainly not very important. Professor Eulenburg's beautiful introduction is just as honorable for the mentor as it is for the protégé, the book to which it is intended to serve as a recommendation; because it contains the admission of a researcher distinguished by his social position, "that (Dr. Bloch) approached the topic not from the one-sided or biased point of view of the physician or medical historian, but with the freer and broader view of the anthropologist and ethnologist, equipped with all of the tools related to this position".

The first volume deals with the antiquity and the ubiquity of sexual perversions and their dependence on culture, nervousness, and degeneration. It also gives a critique of the views on the etiology of sexual anomalies (heredity and acquisition) and a critique of the doctrine of innate sexual perversions. The main part of the volume is devoted to the etiology of sexual aberrations in healthy people and the special etiology of homosexuality, the second volume to the special etiology of sadistic and masochistic phenomena and the special etiology of complicated sexual perversities and perversions.

In a work dealing with the diversity of the strongest instincts of nature in the reflection of national thought, it is impossible to go into the details of the factual material given the wealth of information presented; because every reader of this specialist journal is in a position to increase and in particular to supplement the material both from the literature known to them and from their own experiences. It is more beneficial to summarize the author's points of view and research here in order to stimulate further work. Should Dr. Bloch's work get the recognition I think it deserves in medical circles and among folk researchers, it will certainly herald a new epoch in the special area it deals with.

Of principal importance is Bloch's remark: "On the whole it is correct to say that the sex drive, as a purely physical function, can constitute neither an object of comparison nor a distinguishing feature between primitive and civilized man." This is correct insofar as the ethnologist does not encounter truly primitive people in social groups anywhere in the world. All human tribes of ecumenism are already civilized in one direction and we may have to look for objects of comparison in the non-human animal world. Therefore, the word "culture" is troublesome in Bloch's subsequent explanation and the thought could be expressed differently and more clearly: "The nature of the sexual drive and its anomalies is independent of all culture and shows the same traits in primitive and civilized peoples; it is independent of the physical and mental damage associated with culture, of degeneration in the anthropological and pathological sense. Culture and degeneration can only be considered as facilitating, frequency-increasing influences." Bloch's statement is indisputable: "In addition, there are a large number of external factors which have nothing to do with culture, degeneration and degenerative heredity, but whose influences are of the greatest importance for the development of sexual anomalies in primitive and civilized peoples.

In general, Dr Bloch distinguishes between two groups of sexual perversions, the ones that are inborn or exist from infancy and those developed later in life. The latter, in turn, are divided into those sexual aberrations which are caused by diseases and those which occur in healthy people. In his work, Bloch presents only the etiological conditions of the latter group, i. e. the causes of the development of sexual perversions in otherwise healthy people. I have the same objection to the expression "sexual perversion" as to "psychopathia sexualis". Here, too, the word conceals a condemnation from the outset, which should not be put in front of scientific discussions at least, so as not to influence the conclusion. As a replacement for both terms I would like to suggest another, again a Greek one, paraphilia (παράφιλία), for which I know of no evidence from the old Greek usage, but which is formed similar to the word παράνοια (ignorance, foolishness, madness) and simply indicates a form deviating from ordinary love and not corresponding to the nature of correct love, the purpose of which must be the fertilization of the woman. The epithet would then be paraphiletic (παραφιλητος). In the following I want to make use of this new term, which has the additional advantage of saving us a word each time. In the great majority of cases, says Bloch, medical examination yields no evidence whatsoever of the existence of a pathological basis for sexual abnormality. Individual minor symptoms or even mere "nervousness", which is so widespread today in all classes of the population, are certainly not enough to describe paraphiletic acts or conditions as "morbid". Rather, there is no doubt that all paraphilias can also occur in mentally and physically healthy people who must be considered to be of "sound mind" in every respect.

As with ecstasy, it stands in relation to clear reason, about which Thomas Achelis thankfully gives us explanations from the standpoint of ethnology as well(3). Paraphilia also shows itself to be a special kind of ecstasy in sexual relations, and the connection between the two phenomena, which indeed emanate from different schools of thought, is clearly demonstrable, which Bloch also hints at.

In his opinion, the explanation for the more frequent occurrence of homosexuality and other paraphilias of the vita sexualis in southern regions lies solely in the fact that in these regions, the earlier occurrence and the greater intensity of the libido has to lead to a more frequent need for increased stimulation in its gratification. As an ethnologist, I cannot necessarily agree with him on this point. Because of the warmer climate in southern countries, paraphilias more often take place in public and are more conspicuous, making it seem like they occur more frequently, while the northerner has less opportunities to satisfy his paraphiletic desires, bearing in mind that the heavily clad northerners also have a means of protection against the activities of paraphiletics, the protection that should not be underestimated. The sensual desire is equally present in all groups of people, only some make a virtue out of necessity and this virtue becomes habit, custom, and finally a tradition - but not everywhere. This is what the Buryat folk life teaches us. These people simply weren’t in the infinitely lucky position to have in their midst the peak of culture, i. e. to see scholarly scribes thrive, otherwise the same words that Bloch has for the Indians would apply to them, as follows: "A closer study of the Indian love life shows with evidence that refinement and fornication in sexual intercourse were systematically developed by the Indians and were described as a religious commandment, with no indication of any congenital or pathological conditions, so-called 'psychopathia sexualis' in the sense of Krafft-Ebing. Numerous, one of a kind textbooks on the art of love teach, on the grounds of necessity, all kinds of sexual aberrations, sadism in the form of scratching, biting and flagellating (including morsus genitalium!), use of stimulants to enlarge the penis, to widen or narrow the vagina" etc.

Eulenburg has thoroughly refuted the theory put forward by Lombroso and Ferrero that women are less sensitive. If you listen to R. Günther and Ed. Carpenter (whose twaddle we now also get to enjoy in German), the woman would even be almost sexually indifferent. Bloch, on the other hand, thinks that “it cannot be denied that in general, men have more powerful sexual drives than women. The sensual desire expresses itself earlier and more vigorously in the man, while the untouched nubile woman can much more easily resist the stirring dark urge for sexual union with the man.” No, she can't! The only thing that restrains her in our cultural society is the fear of the consequences of giving herself to men. Folklore irrefutably teaches us that it’s woman who seduces man. If I have proved anything with my book "Streifzüge im Bereiche der Frauenschönheit" (Leipzig 1903), then that it is, I believe, the greater intelligence and superiority of woman over man in sexual matters. O. Effertz's disquisition on venerie and eroticism, which Bloch quotes in his favour, does not stand up to scrutiny because wordplay is irrelevant to folkloric facts. Ten pages later, Bloch himself admits to this in a comment: "One should also not fail to recognize that there is often only an apparent sexual anesthesia, which is an interpretation based on woman’s typical reluctance to engage in coitus." Precisely this “reluctance” is not typical to women, but only the effect of social compulsion exerted on women within our culture, and even here one should not generalize without further ado.

Bloch expresses a fundamental thought (on page 69 f.), where he speaks on the topic of civilization: “A richer social structure, a more complicated spiritual life, a more specific formation of ethical views always also reflect on the sexual fantasy and can, in a certain sense, change it and lead it astray. There is no physical manifestation of the sexual impulse that could not possibly have sprung from a very vivid or misguided imagination alone.” This is true, but not only applicable to civilized people. We have plenty of other concerns and responsibilities in life than just satisfying the sex drive, while the imagination of uncultured people can focus more on the punctum puncti. If the pleasure of sex was the peak of human happiness, we would be at a great disadvantage thanks to our culture. Which we indeed are in terms of imagination, and that’s why we have a lesser degree of happiness, and a higher one of unhappiness.

Us cultured people with our imagination have remained on the same level as the poorest cultured groups of people only in one respect, namely where sex life is connected to religion. “Only in this way can we,” says Bloch, “explain the development of a gigantic literature on sexual casuistics in theology and its branch, pastoral medicine. These facts can not be understood by the bitter tirades of cultural historians, dictated by religious prejudices, but only by the explanations of doctors and anthropologists, who consider these things in the broader context and have recognized the relations between religion and sex life as universally human and not as artificial products of any particular school of thought."

In the second part, following the ethnology, Bloch defends the opinion that most sexual aberrations do not fall within the area of responsibility of the doctor; the core of the algolagnistic phenomena is the joy in someone else's or one's own pain, i.e. cruelty directed at others or at oneself. He finds it notable that weak, delicate people, especially women, often display cruel tendencies which one would not have expected of them. His explanation that cruelty springs temporarily from the idea of superiority, so that the fear inherent in weak individuals may thereby be overcome, is nice, but not sufficient. He forgot to point out that unfortunately our upbringing is mainly based on the cultivation and training of cruel tendencies and that we Europeans can claim the honor of being the most cruel of all groups of people on this planet, and that we are constantly being taught to find pride and superiority in this. No wonder then that weak, delicate people also want to enjoy their share of the supposed pleasure and strength. Our glorious, magnificently constructed social order is based on strengthening the strong and weakening the weak. If women were to organize themselves, a gynecocracy would arise on a grand scale, on a small scale it is called masochism. One must enslave the other; if man enslaves woman, we do not stumble; but when woman begins to feel herself, we cry out in sorrow; because otherwise the world wouldn’t stand for long.

The possibility of the entire spectrum of paraphilias being embodied in a single individual is considered by Bloch to be the best proof of the existence of the development of paraphilias, since it would be untenable to assume that all sexual abnormalities were "congenital" in the same person.

What’s innate is the disposition or the aptitude, but only opportunity creates a paraphiletic. One would hardly think it possible -- how much wickedness, if that expression is permissible -- has been innate in the human child. Pedology gives us plenty of information about this; its representatives (e.g. O. Chrishman, the American) go so far as to describe children as a special kind of human-animal species. It would hardly be wrong to portray children as the first originators of paraphilias, or at least adults can still learn from children. One must keep Bloch's core thesis in mind: "The monstrosity of the act is by no means a criterion for its psychopathic origin"; Furthermore: “The fact that sick people have paraphilias must not lead one to the conclusion that paraphilia always has to be related to sickness, especially when one remembers the undoubted fact that healthy people can become so accustomed to sexual aberrations that they appear like paraphilias without affecting the mental health of the person in the slightest."

At the end of his work, Bloch considers "the sexual need for variation peculiar to the genus homo, which is to be understood as a physiological phenomenon and the increase of which to a hunger for sexual stimulus can produce the most severe paraphilias" as the final, definite cause of all paraphilias. This law forms the basis of every philosophy of sexual life. It clearly shows that prostitution, as a mere product of this need for sexual variety and as a substitute for the promiscuity that originally arose from the latter, is ineradicable if one does not find another way of satisfying this need for variation, which eliminates the dangers of prostitution and could still grant satisfaction to these tendencies that break through again and again.

Here the term "prostitution" is to be taken in a very narrow or conventional sense. On the average, the marriage that is customary among us is also just a kind of prostitution of the woman or the man or both at the same time. The institution of marriage, with its ineradicable mendacity, sufficiently provides for the need for variation. Prostitution and marriage aren't opposed to each other, as prostitution is just a temporary marriage with short regrets, as opposed to permanent marriages with endless regrets. Of course there are also happy marriages, just as there are people who have supposedly won large sums of money in the lottery.

Bloch's work ends in an exhortation to moderation in matters of love. This comes off as moralizing which neither harms nor helps; it does not change anything about philia and paraphilia. Nor will the reader linger, but would rather go back to reread the work; for it offers so many valuable suggestions that it cannot be dealt with within the framework of one report. I empathetically wanted to draw the doctors' attention to an achievement whose study will open up broader perspectives for them, and I hope that in the not too distant future they will happily welcome collaboration with folklorists and ethnologists in order to advance science. The annual congress of natural scientists and physicians has already introduced its own section for ethnology, only the ethnologists do not register for lectures. It is not enough to declare the admission of ethnologists, as if ethnologists would vie for such an honor. They are not that ambitious and therefore keep their distance.

(1) Beiträge zur Aetiologie der Psychopathia sexualis. By Dr. med. Iwan Bloch, doctor for skin and sexual diseases in Berlin. With a preface by Prof. Dr. Albert Eulenburg in Berlin. First part, Dresden. H. R. Dohrn 1902. Second part, ibid. 1903.

(2) Der Ursprung der Syphilis. A medical and cultural-historical study by Dr. med. Iwan Bloch. First Part. Jena, Gustav Fischer 1901.

3) Die Ekstase by Prof. Dr. Thomas Achelis. I. B. the cultural problems of the present. Edited by Leo Berg, Berlin, Johannes Räde, 1902.


  1. What or who is meant by the previous two sentences is unclear.