One of the first tours we went on in London was “Sex and the City”. No, it was not the television show. All of us students thought it was going to be all about how London is full of sexually transmitted diseases and how everyone is obsessed with public displays of affection, but again, it was not.
The tour was actually about sexological history and the relationship between human sexuality and the medical profession. Apparently the first doctor to talk about homosexuality and transgenders had quite an interesting (or gross) nickname. In 1879, Dr. Havelock Ellis got really bored with the same old, same old medical research and started studying sexuality. He wrote books on homosexuality and was a huge fan of eugenics, but Dr. Havelock Ellis was an even bigger fan of urine. Yep, you read that right! Ellis would be aroused by watching people pee, resulting in the nickname “Splasher”. Even though Dr. Ellis had a rather odd nickname, he is best known for being an important social activist, physician and psychologist. He co-wrote the first English medical textbook about homosexuality and was inspiration for Sigmund Freud to develop psychoanalytical concepts.
Another notable figure that the tour focused on was a woman named Marie Stopes. She was big on women’s rights, birth control support, and marriage. In 1920 Marie Stopes started a clinic in an area that used to be a big red light district in London and the clinic is still there today. The clinic has been known for birth control and vasectomies. Today, there are a few Marie Stopes clinics around the United Kingdom. They are best known for sexual and reproductive health services, the result of the hard advocacy work Marie Stopes did. The weirdest thing I heard about her in the tour was her quote. “Never ever put anything into your vagina that you would not put into your mouth”. That is a pretty bold statement if you ask me.
The rest of the tour was about other sexologists in London’s history such as Magnus Hirschfield, Sigmund Freud, and how the contraceptive pill was the cause of the “swinging sixties”. We also heard stories about how King Edward VII was addicted to sex, swam around in champagne baths, and made a sex chair to make his love making a little easier.
All of these known men and women talked about in the tour are important to today’s social institutions. Dr. Ellis Havelock opened doors for studies relating to homosexuality. Without Marie Stopes’s advocacy for women’s reproductive rights, would women in the UK have access to free birth control like they do now? Sigmund Freud, being one of the world’s most known psychologists, contributed to understanding personality and human development. Even though the tour was not about a hit television show or sexually transmitted diseases, it sure was fascinating!