Sexual Deviance between Biological and Social Causation: International Approaches and Czechoslovak Sexology in the 1960s and 1970s

Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:20 AM
Nassau Suite B (New York Hilton)
Katerina Liskova, Masaryk University
Doctors studying sexuality in both East and West met at the first international conference in Prague – “Symposium sexuologicum pragense” – during the spring of 1968. Over 300 experts from 19 countries on 4 continents attended. A major discord emerged in their discussions of deviant sexuality. While Western experts typically identified biological grounds to deviations (and to sexuality in general), sexologists from the East tended to look in rather societal directions when attributing causes to aberrant sexualities. Doctors from West Germany saw sexuality as determined hormonally or by sex chromosomes, while neurologists from East Berlin argued for strong social influence of childhood “impregnation” (Praegung) for the future development of pedophilia. Czechoslovak sexologists in 1968 stood in the middle. When describing pedophiles, they identified their somatic variations from the population of “normal” heterosexual men. However, their accounts were interspersed with mentions of “general sociopathy” of their subjects. Czechoslovak expert approach to (deviant) sexuality became distinctively social in the 1970s. The 1968 conference in Prague marks a turning point when a divergent “Eastern” view began to shape.

I want to discuss the Czechoslovak development in the context of international discussions of sexual deviance. In 1968, American Psychiatric Association published the DSM-II in which it ceased attributing deviance to the pathogenic power of social values and norms. The international community that had argued for the role of social norms in diagnosing sexual deviance in the first edition of the DSM, swerved away from the social genesis with the DSM-II. I will analyze the expert discussions during the Symposium sexuologicum pragense to capture the emerging disagreement between Western and Eastern scientists regarding sexual deviance.