Women’s sexuality has historically been viewed very negatively, if at all. Women have generally fallen into one of two categories: the Madonna or the whore. Though this dichotomy is still seen today, the “Madonna-whore complex” originated with Freud, and was a condition in which a man feels anxiety when it comes to women. To reduce this anxiety, he thus places them in either the “Madonna” category, which is made up of women he admires and loves, or the “whore” category, which is made up of women he finds sexually attractive and thus despises (Freud, 1912). In this way, female sexuality has been seen in most male-dominated societies as something dangerous, something to be feared and thus restricted. Given that even today women’s sexual freedom is often heavily restricted, whether it be in form of female genital mutilation in Africa or in the ongoing political debates over abortion in the United States, it can often seem as if views of female sexuality have changed very little over time. However, with the creation of sexology in the mid- to late 19th century, came an interest in the scientific study of human sexuality. Women’s sexuality began to be analyzed and scrutinized scientifically, and from the theories of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Alfred Kinsey, and many others, traditional views of women and sexuality began to change. This section of our website focuses on these theorists, their views, and how the field of sexology, which was pioneered by many psychologists, has helped broaden the view of female sexuality. We have divided this section into Pre-Kinsey and Post-Kinsey in order to make it easier to navigate.

By Kylie McFatridge


Freud, S. (1912). On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love. In Contributions to the Psychology of Love(2). Retrieved from

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