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October 26, 1984


JAMA. 1984;252(16):2291-2295. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350160159047

Courageous contemporary researchers have brought 20th-century medicine out of its total illiteracy regarding human sexuality. With various techniques—motion pictures, video recordings, electroencephalography, electrocardiography, electromyography, plethysmography, and measurements of pulse rates and pupil dilation—individuals (awake and asleep) and sexually interacting individuals and couples have been studied.

In laboratory settings in the United States, England, France, Yugoslavia, and Scandinavia, sexual mysteries have yielded to study, providing knowledge about the sexual behavior and biology of men and women from womb to tomb. Some clinical problems are now successfully treated; the long-range goal is prevention of sexual difficulties, dysfunctions, and deviations.1,2 Skepticism as well as criticism exist about medical sexual research and treatment of sexual problems, yet sexual medicine today inevitably spans every specialty from embryology to pharmacology.3 Incest, long underemphasized in medical training, is beginning to receive serious study.4

Before either prevention or treatment of sexual problems can be discussed,