Curing sexual deviance : medical approaches to sexual offenders in England, 1919-1959

Weston, Janet (2016) Curing sexual deviance : medical approaches to sexual offenders in England, 1919-1959. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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This thesis examines medical approaches to sexual offenders in England between 1919 and 1959. It explores how doctors conceptualised sexual crimes and those who committed them, and how these ideas were implemented in medical and legal settings. It uses medical and criminological texts alongside information about specific court proceedings and offenders' lives to set out two overarching arguments. Firstly, it contends that sexual crime, and the sexual offender, are useful categories for analysis. Examining the medical theories that were put forward about the 'sexual offender', broadly defined, and the ways in which such theories were used, reveals important features of medico-legal thought and practice in relation to sexuality, crime, and 'normal' or healthy behaviour. This broad category has often been overlooked in favour of research into much more specific sexual identities, acts, or offences. Secondly, this thesis argues that clinical theories in relation to sexual offenders were remarkably diverse, but that this diversity and resultant flexibility were key to their usefulness for doctors and the judiciary alike. Doctors did not hold firmly to any single aetiological model, nor claim that all sexual offenders could be cured. The legal and penal systems could deploy medical approaches to justify extremely varied decisions, individualising responses to sexual crime insofar as the legal system would allow. The ways in which medical theories were incorporated and shaped by the legal system, and the flexible nature of these theories themselves, extended the variety of possible outcomes for sexual offenders without fundamentally altering their status. These medical approaches, established over the early to mid-twentieth century in England, laid important foundations for later years. This project opens up new ways of understanding medico-legal theory and practice as they relate to a wide range of human sexual behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: This thesis is not currently available for public use. Date of PhD award confirmed as 2016 by registry.
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > History, Classics & Archaeology
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 27 May 2016 09:53
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2018 00:15

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