Title

Coining spermatorrhoea: medicine and male body fluids, 1836-1866

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Stephens, E 2009, 'Coining spermatorrhoea: medicine and male body fluids, 1836-1866', Sexualities: studies in culture and society, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 467-485.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1363460709105713

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

When Lallemand coined the term spermatorrhée in the first volume of Des pertes séminales involontaires (1838), an earlier discourse on 'seminal weakness' was transformed into something new: a recognizable and treatable medical disorder, with its own specific aetiology and nosology. To the symptoms of seminal weakness — blushing, crying, breathlessness, melancholy, lack of confidence and extreme sensitivity — were added symptoms such as spermatozoa in the urine detectable only with the use of new, microscopic medical technologies. While the spermatorrhoea epidemic thus reflects an increased anxiety about male fluidity at this time, it also produced a profound change in the practice and organization of medicine. The flourishing of 'quack' doctors in this area forced licensed physicians to incorporate treatment of sexual disorders and diseases within general practice, while new legislation regulated the medical profession itself.