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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 9, 2011


JAMA. 2011;305(10):1041. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.206

The attitude of the modern world toward the problem of sex, and especially of education in the hygiene and ethics of sex, seems an anomalous one. The subject has always been surrounded with mystery; but simpler and more primitive peoples find life full of mysteries, which they confront smiling and unabashed. We have few mysteries left to us; and the antiquated taboos which overshadow this one appear scarcely sufficient to account for the feeling, curiously compounded of dread, aversion and curiosity, which any discussion of the subject seems to arouse in most people to-day. The pagan world of antiquity frankly glorified sex, even in its sensual aspect; the asceticism of the middle ages rigorously condemned all aspects as sinful. The modern world professes to repudiate both doctrines; but the two seem to mingle in the ill-balanced and feverish sensitiveness on the subject often betrayed to-day, both in silence and in speech.