Sexology in Hebrew and Arabic

with Liat Kozma

hosted by Susanna Ferguson and Chris Gratien

Download the episode

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, scientists and physicians the world over began to think of sex as something that could be studied and understood through rational methods. In places like Germany, these sexologists were associated with progressive political movements that combated stigmatization of homosexuality and contraception and broke taboos regarding issues such as impotence and masturbation. In this episode, Liat Kozma examines how sexology traveled and transformed in Middle Eastern contexts through the writings of Egyptian doctors and Jewish exiles.

Stream via SoundCloud

Liat Kozma is a senior lecturer at the Department of Islamic and Middle East Studies, the Hebrew University. She is currently working on a book manuscript on regulated prostitution in the interwar Middle East and North Africa.
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. 
Susanna Ferguson is a doctoral candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University, where she focuses on the history of women and gender in the Arab world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Episode No. 196
Release date: 19 August 2015
Location: Okmeydanı, Istanbul
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Bibliography and images courtesy of Liat Kozma
Additional thanks to Seçil Yılmaz
courtesy of Liat Kozma

Liat Kozma, " 'We, the Sexologists . . .': Arabic Medical Writing on Sexuality, 1879–1943," Journal of the History of Sexuality 22:3 (2013), 426-445.

Liat Kozma, "sexology in the Yishuv: The rise and decline of sexual consultation in Tel Aviv, 1930–39", International Journal of Middle East Studies 42 (May 2010), 231-249.

Liat Kozma, "Translating Sexology, Writing the Nation: Sexual Discourse and Practice in Hebrew and in Arabic in the 1930s," In Heike Bauer, Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World. London: Temple University Press, 2015.

Further Reading

On Ottoman sexual discourses, see Dror Ze'evi, Producing Desire:‎  Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East, 1500-1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006 (especially chapter 1).

On sexual discourses in the 20th century Egypt, see Wilson Chacko Jacob, Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870–1940. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011 (especially chapter 6).

On scientification of the human body in early twentieth century Egypt, consult also
Hanan Kholoussy, "Monitoring and Medicalising Male Sexuality in Semi-Colonial Egypt," Gender & History 22 (2010), 677-691; Hibba Abugideiri, Gender and the Making of Modern Medicine in Colonial Egypt. London: Ashgate, 2010, chapter 7 (titled "Egyptian doctors and domestic medicine"); and Oumnia El Shakry, The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.

On sexuality in early Zionist ideology, see Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997; John M. Efron, Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-De-Siècle Europe. New Haven, Con.: Yale University Press, 1994.

On concept of "sexual reform" disseminated in different European contexts (including the UK, the Netherlands and Spain) in the interwar period through the German-inspired World League for Sexual Reform, see a theme issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 12, issue 1 (January 2003).
Heike Bauer's forthcoming Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World. London: Temple University Press, 2015 – will cover more such contexts of influence, including China, Japan, Russia and Peru.


Barbara Jones adorns the cover of Al-Riyada Al-Badaniyya (الرياضة البدنية), an Egyptian periodical that featured articles related to sexology during the 1930s (courtesy of Liat Kozma)


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.