HISTORICAL ROOTS OF CONDUCTING SEX RESEARCH
One of the first researchers to discuss childhood sexual abuse was Sigmund Freud. In the late 1800s, he proposed his seduction theory of childhood sexuality (Laws & Marshall, 2003), which stated that adult hysteria was rooted in suppressed, childhood incidents of sexual abuse. This theory was not well received by Freud's peers, as one of them noted it sounded like a fairy tale (Hunt, 1993). Freud abandoned his theory and later suggested that sexual abuse was imagined by the purported victims (Laws & Marshall, 2003). Freud, in 1905, published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, which discussed sexual deviations, infantile sexuality, and sexuality in puberty. In Europe and North America, Freud was considered by many to be a "pervert" for his research (Hunt, 1993).
What can be learned from Freud's attempt to study sexuality and sex crimes? First, studying sexuality is risky. It is not a popular topic to study scientifically as the topic is risque, and studying it objectively is difficult. Second, Freud was the first to discuss adult emotional problems (e.g., hysteria) as a consequence of childhood events—a causal logic that is still relied upon today.
Other researchers were also studying sex and sexual deviations at the same time. For example, Adolf Patze recognized that children ages three to six years displayed a strong sexual drive. Another researcher, Henry Maudsley, also mentioned sexual behaviors among infants. Richard von Krafft-Ebing (Krafft-Ebing 1886) also published accounts of deviant sexual behavior.
A grand-scale attempt to describe human sexuality, as well as variations of it, was made by Alfred Kinsey. He was an entomologist who studied variations in gall wasps. He was influenced by Sigmund Freud, believing that human behavior is driven by sexual desires (Laws & Marshall, 2003). Kinsey conducted interviews with Americans of all ages and from diverse backgrounds. He published the results in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948, and later, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953. Some of the results of his research are reported in Focus Box 1.1.
Focus Box 1.1 Results of Alfred Kinsey's Research (1948/1953) on Human Sexuality