Psychopathia Sexualis

Activity Being Procrastinated: bedtime (too wired to sleep)
Music In My Head: Ghost – Indigo Girls
Tea: none.  I have to limit myself at night
Books Being Read: The Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

A couple of weeks ago, I had tea with a fellow writer.  We were talking about inspiration, and I suggested that case studies were a fine way to get yourself a pre-fab character, setting, etc. to work with.  He’d never thought of that (despite having a job which involves case studies; sometimes writers – bogged down by the minutia of society – aren’t the brightest bulbs).

This week, it was my turn to come up with some writing exercises for one of my writing groups.  Hmm.  I poured myself a large cup of tea and sat down in front of my book shelves to search for brilliant ideas.

There, waiting patiently, was Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis. Copyright 1906.

My maternal grandfather was a doctor.  I inherited a couple of his more scintillating books.

Psychopathia Sexualis (you can read it here) is a collection of case studies of patients who were considered to be sexually ill.  It’s a pretty twisted little book, where everything dirty is written in Latin – because writing it in Latin makes it clean again.  I guess the hard consonants and slurry v’s bless it sufficiently.

I believe the book is a lot thinner now, as they’ve removed everything that is no longer considered an illness. People who read my copy are usually surprised: “That’s considered an illness?!”  “Only if you do it too hard.”  It’s a great window into period society, though.  Makes it easier to understand some of the more repressed cultures.

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