“The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality” by Benjamin Kahan— Forgotten Sexualities

Kahan, Benjamin. “The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality”, University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Forgotten Sexualities

Amos Lassen

I thought I knew something about sexualities before  I read Benjamin Kahan’s “The Book of Minor Perverts”. I also thought I knew a lot about Michel Foucault since I had studied with him and I could not understand why I did not remember that he coined the term “minor perverts”. These minor perverts include statue-fondlers, wander lusters, sex magicians, and nymphomaniacs and we have never had their stories before although  was not sure what could a story about a statue-fondler tell me? Benjamin Kahan sets out to chart the proliferation of sexual classification that arose with the advent of nineteenth-century sexology. We see the shift from Foucault’s “thousand aberrant sexualities” to one: homosexuality. The focus here is less on the effects of queer identity and more on the lines of causation behind a surprising array of minor perverts who did not fit into our familiar sexual frameworks. The result stands at the intersection of history, queer studies, and the medical humanities to offer us a new way of feeling our way into the past.

We look at these questions— “Is heterosexuality congenital or acquired? Is sexuality inborn or socially constructed? Or, according to the mushy middle model, is sexuality a bit inborn, a bit constructed?” We take a careful look into the theories of sexuality’s origin in this  thought provoking book.” In effect what Kahan does here is rewrite the history of sexuality and illuminates what is missing including the stories told since the eighteenth century, and peaking during the Modernist period, about how people become homosexual. This is a book that will be part of our literary canon and hold its own against other theorists. I found it new and exciting and very, very interesting.

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