SEX RESEARCH AND
FROM THE GREEKS TO THE
Generally, as indicated in the introduction, much of the early information about sex was gathered from animal observations. Interestingly, however, observations about sexual activity among plants was ignored, perhaps because with few exceptions, such as the date palm, it was not very obvious. One result of this early lack of attention to plants has been that in Western culture flowering plants such as the rose have been regarded as symbols of chastity and coupling animals as symbols of concupiscence. There have even been religious groups, such as the Albigensians, who prohibited their adherents from eating any product of sexual union but allowed them to eat vegetables, fruits, and fish, because they believed these forms of life did not result from sexual union.
All of this is a way of emphasizing that Western concepts of sexuality up to the nineteenth century represented a hodgepodge of ideas and contributors. Historically, the most influential premodern author on sexual activity among animals and humans was the fourth-century B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose History of Animals, Parts of Animals, and Generation of Animals can be regarded as the foundation not only of Western zoology but also of Western sexology. So great was his influence that almost anything attributed to him was believed, with the result that his name was attached to books that had little to do with what he said. For example, the most widely used source of information about sex in the English-speaking world from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries was known as Aristotle's