Who Invented Sex?

Recently, fossils have revealed that the planet’s first act of sex took place 385 million years ago. This intimate encounter involved ancient armored fish known as placoderms with bones that allowed them to bind, take in and recombine foreign DNA.

Before Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, highbrow readers who wanted literary sex could turn to Henry Miller, Anastasia and DH Lawrence. But Kinsey was a game-changer.

Magnus Hirschfeld

Born into a conservative Jewish family in 1868, Hirschfeld was fascinated by sex from an early age. He challenged conventions and moralism, and believed that sexuality was natural and wholesome. In 1897 he founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee with Max Spohr and Franz Josef von Bulow, and led the campaign for homosexual emancipation.

He started a petition with 3,000 signatures, gave public lectures around the world, and wrote and edited a journal that delved into the sexual variations between men. The journal, called the Yearbook of Intermediate Sexual Types, was the first to do so and ran until 1923.

In 1919 he opened the world’s first Institute for Sexual Science, the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft (the Institute for Sex Research). The elegant neoclassical mansion had consulting rooms, an auditorium for public lectures, an ever-growing library, and Hirschfeld and Giese’s residence.

Hirschfeld’s beliefs and activities put him at odds with the German military and political establishment. He was a pacifist, and his Jewish heritage and sexual liberation activism made him a target of the Nazis. He was assaulted, his lectures disrupted, and the institute was ransacked.

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His ideas and his personal life made Hirschfeld a controversial figure, but he persevered. Among his achievements, Hirschfeld developed the theory of sexual intermediacy, which considered all human traits on a spectrum from masculine to feminine. This included hermaphroditism, transvestism, and homosexuality.

Karl Giese

Carl Giese was an archivist, museum curator and the life partner of Magnus Hirschfeld. He was also the author of several articles on the history of homosexuality and German gay culture. He died in 1975 in Redwood City, California. He was 62 years old at the time of his death.

In 1920, Giese became a part of Hirschfeld’s inner circle at the Institute. He lived there and acted as his secretary, giving lectures and tours of the archives. His living room also served as a meeting place for young homosexual men, including the English writer Christopher Isherwood.

The 1920s were a period of enormous flowering for gay and lesbian cultures in Germany, and the Berlin scene attracted people from across the world. These visitors included Hirschfeld’s friend Francis Turville-Petre, who lived at the Institute, and Christopher Isherwood, who based many of his novels on the men he met in Berlin.

While Hirschfeld was working on his magnum opus, The Sexual History of Man, he also focused on the study of homosexuality and gender nonconformity. He was an early proponent of the idea of a continuum between heterosexual and homosexual attraction, decades before Alfred Kinsey. In addition, he promoted the term “third sex” to describe the category of sexual orientation that included both lesbians and gay men. It was a term that allowed him to attract a wider readership than the more rigid and exclusive terms of the time.

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Harold Robbins

A self-described “flying sexman,” Harold Robbins changed the face of post-war popular fiction with his steamy novels about Hollywood, aviation and high finance. His sexy novels were scorned by critics but loved by readers. The godfather of the airport novel, he was a rich man with homes in Los Angeles and Acapulco and a fleet of cars and boats. He was a flamboyant character with a flashy wardrobe and a nasal Brooklyn accent.

When his novel The Carpetbaggers came out in 1961, it was immediately a hit. The story of business tycoon Jonas Cord was loosely based on Howard Hughes, and the author took full advantage. He even managed to keep his fame despite the fact that the book was banned in some states for being obscenely graphic and erotic.

Robbins was also a notorious liar who embellished many aspects of his life, including his childhood. He claimed that he was an orphan raised in a Catholic boy’s home, but this turned out to be untrue. He also invented his own personal history, claiming to be a descendant of Jewish royalty and a former sex slave. He was a flamboyant figure who enjoyed a high-society lifestyle and often indulged in alcohol abuse. He died in 1997 in Palm Springs, California. His son, Junius Podrug, continued to write books in his name.


For centuries, the idea that human beings have a natural sexual drive was taboo. Women were taught to believe that their primary role in life was to satisfy male lust and produce children. Male sexual desires were firmly policed as unladylike, and female sexual desire was considered sinful.

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In 1953, Alfred Kinsey changed all that. He developed a questionnaire containing questions about Americans’ sex lives and asked them to complete it. He then interviewed more than 18,000 people, gathering a vast amount of data about their sexuality. His methodology was brilliant and his results ground-breaking.

His findings led to a revolution in attitudes about sex and the human body. Kinsey showed that most men and women needed a form of sexual stimulation other than clitoral penetration, and that many women were capable of orgasms with the help of mechanical vibrators. He also demonstrated that many women need direct clitoral stimulation to experience orgasms and that most women had a sexual urge even when they weren’t in a romantic relationship.

Kinsey’s work influenced both queer and feminist ideas, but his biggest legacy was in opening the door for scientists to study the physical, biological, and psychological aspects of human sexuality. Today, there is no doubt that sex is a natural and important part of human existence, and it continues to evolve in ways we may never fully understand.

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