Sexologist Volkmar Sigusch: 'Our Society is Still Ignorant about Sex'

By and Claudia Voigt

Part 2: 'I have the Utmost Respect for Asexuals'

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SPIEGEL: How does it affect the sexual development of adolescents when they can experience sex on the Internet before having it themselves?

Sigusch: While the Internet generally tends to have a stress-relieving function for adults -- as long as they aren't inclined toward sex addiction -- I don't see this being the case for adolescents. Most pornographic images are simply too repulsive. Besides, secrets are destroyed that are central to the experience of love. But most young people seem to be behaving very intelligently: They look at things once in a while, but then they find it so idiotic and uncool that they just look away again. That is, provided they're not growing up in a family in which a drunk father is already watching pornos in the morning.

SPIEGEL: What will sexuality look like in the future?

Sigusch: There will be other forms in addition to our classic marriage. One is already looming on the horizon: polyamory, or having more than one intimate partner. In other words, you're married to a woman who has no objection to another woman joining the couple. Then she brings in her boyfriend. Suddenly you realize -- my God! -- you can love more than one person. In fact, you can love several people at the same time.

SPIEGEL: Isn't that exhausting?

Sigusch: No one has to choose this option; it's just one of many possibilities. We will experience a broader spectrum of socially accepted forms of sexual life. Incidentally, I have the utmost respect for people who are asexual. I didn't believe that they existed at first. But they do exist, and their numbers are growing.

SPIEGEL: Asexuality contradicts the modern promise of happiness, which holds that a fulfilled and exciting sexuality is part of a successful life.

Sigusch: This promise of happiness can also be a fatal burden, so that sexuality is pushed back more and more and people try to replace what they've lost with other forms of excitement. There are young men who want thrills but no longer value sex, so they do completely different things, including aggressive things.

SPIEGEL: What do you see as the biggest taboo in sexuality today?

Sigusch: Clearly child sexuality, including everything that goes with it -- pedophilia, pedosexuality.

SPIEGEL: Can these forms of sexuality be treated with therapy?

Sigusch: It's very important to approach pedophiles and pedosexuals and offer them therapy. It's been my experience that you can reach your objective with what I would call kind-hearted, informed and enlightened patients -- in the sense that they don't lose their desire, but that they no longer have physical contact with children. That would be the goal.

SPIEGEL: It sounds like you believe there's a group of perpetrators or pedophiles that aren't reachable through therapy.

Sigusch: Yes, there is. That's been my experience. They can't be reached with offers of therapy. There are pedosexuals who, even if the court forces them to go into treatment, do not pursue it or cannot pursue it. There have also been cases in which I was completely deceived as a therapist and in which the police would suddenly discover recent photographs of children while conducting a search.

SPIEGEL: How should society treat these people?

Sigusch: In accordance with the law. There is no other way to answer the question. We are all potential murderers, and we are all potential rapists and abusers.

SPIEGEL: More than four years ago, when you retired, the Frankfurt-based Institute for Sexual Science was closed. Since then, you've been fighting a rather unpromising fight to at least preserve a professorship of sexual medicine and your outpatient center.

Sigusch: I think it's downright intolerable. Over the decades we -- and here I'm also referring to (German sexologists) Martin Dannecker and Reimut Reiche -- have studied such diverse topics as youth sexuality, homosexuality, gender tension and transsexuality. We established sexual science between medicine and sociology. Society still needs this crazy discipline. The traits of our sexual culture are still speechlessness, loneliness, violence and not enough desire and love.

SPIEGEL: As a therapist, are you ever surprised by anything anymore?

Sigusch: Yes, again and again, and it makes me very happy. Take, for example, the so-called "objectophiles," who fall in love with and desire inanimate objects, like a machine or an instrument. Just ask a hundred men with whom they spend more time and who they love more: their wife or their new car? Just go to an auto show, and you'll see all the signs of sexual arousal in the men: shiny eyes, tremors, sex flush. An acute example of the need for professional sex research.

SPIEGEL: How exactly do you define good sex?

Sigusch: That's where I agree with Woody Allen: Good sex can be anything, including dirty.

SPIEGEL: Professor Sigusch, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Thomas Hüetlin and Claudia Voigt

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About Volkmar Sigusch
Dorothee van Bömmel/DER SPIEGEL
Volkmar Sigusch, 70, is one of the world's foremost sex researchers. After fleeing East Germany in 1961, he studied medicine, psychology and philosophy, the latter as a student of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. In 1972, he became the then-youngest German professor of medicine at the University of Frankfurt, when he was awarded the first-ever professorship in sexology. Since then, Sigusch has acted as a theorist and expert on social policy issues, and he has played a key role in liberalizing Germany's laws penalizing homosexuality. Until 2006, Sigusch led Frankfurt University's Institute for Sexual Science and its associated sexual medicine clinic. In 2005, he published "Neo-sexuality: On the Cultural Change of Love and Perversion." In early March 2011, he released his new book "Searching for Sexual Freedom."

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