The shreds fluttered away, sank in the dank air: a white flutter then all sank.


Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902) was an Austro-German sexologist and psychiatrist.

He wrote Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) [book cover], a notable series of case studies of the varieties of human sexual behaviour. The book remains well known for his coinage of the terms sadism (from Marquis de Sade whose fictional writings often include brutal sexual practices) and masochism (from writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose partly autobiographical novel Venus in Furs tells of the protagonist’s desire to be whipped and enslaved by a beautiful woman). (…)

In the first edition of Psychopathia Sexualis, Krafft-Ebing divided “cerebral neuroses” into four categories:

• paradoxia: Sexual desire at the wrong time of life, i.e. childhood or old age

• anesthesia: Insufficient sexual desire

• hyperesthesia: Excessive sexual desire

• paraesthesia: Sexual desire for the wrong goal or object, including homosexuality (”contrary sexual desire”), sexual fetishism, sadism, masochism, paedophilia , etc.

Krafft-Ebing believed that the purpose of sexual desire was procreation, and that any form of desire that did not go towards that ultimate goal was a perversion. Rape, for instance, was an aberrant act, but not a perversion, because pregnancy could result.

He saw women as sexually passive, and recorded no female sadists or fetishists in his case studies. Behaviour that would be classified as masochism in men was categorized in women as “sexual bondage,” which, because it did not interfere with procreation, was not a perversion.

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