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Sexual Offences and Diminished Responsibility [Sexual délikt und verminderte Zurechnungs fahigkeit] (Psych.-neur. Wochensch., December 25th, 1909.) Näcke, P.

  • M. Eden Paul

In an earlier number of the same periodical appeared a paper by Fischer on “Responsibility in Incipient or Doubtful Mental Disorder,” in which sexual offences (among others) were considered. Fischer maintained that if a person of sound mind was affected with an abnormally powerful libido sexualis and committed an offence, his increased libido could not be pleaded as a ground for a diminution of the legal penalty incurred, “inasmuch as in a person of sound mind no mental disorder can be induced by an increased libido.” Näcke accepts the latter statement as true, but disputes the former. He considers that inasmuch as any strong emotion may diminish or completely overpower self-control, the same is true of the sexual impulse. Hence in a sane person diminished responsibility may be pleaded on the ground of abnormally powerful libido sexualis. In the paper already quoted Fischer had written, “Experience teaches us that in persons whose sexual desires are directed to abnormal ends, libido is no more powerful than it is in those whose sexual desires are normally directed. Even if in such cases libido was greater, the inhibiting influences offered by society and its laws to the gratification of abnormal desires is greater. It follows from these considerations that those who, in other respects mentally sound, have inherited pathological sexual tendencies, are fully responsible for all their actions.” As Näcke remarks, it is fairly obvious that Fischer has in mind the offences of homosexuals; and Näcke asks, Has Fischer any first-hand knowledge of urnings, and, if so, of how many? It seems as if his knowledge cannot be extensive, since, in the first place, those with inverted sexuality are not necessarily the subjects of a pathological mental state. At most quâ homosexuality they are abnormal, and perhaps even we must regard inverted sexuality as a normal variety of the libido to which a minority are subject. And it is by no means proved that sexual inverts are more often psychopathic and degenerate than the heterosexual. Näcke's own impression, at any rate, is that this is not the case. He goes on to say that he is in agreement with others who have a large first-hand knowledge of urnings in believing that these, as a rule, have a libido which is exceptionally powerful and makes its appearance at an earlier age than in the case of heterosexuals. If these beliefs correspond with the facts, diminished responsibility could justly be pleaded on behalf of homosexuals who have committed sexual offences. Urnings are well aware of the existence of Section 175 in the German Criminal Code (1); they are also aware of the social obloquy they incur, at any rate in cultured circles of society, and yet these hindrances often prove insufficient. It is, in fact, unjust, says Näcke, to demand, under penalty, sexual abstinence from urnings, when no such demand is enforced upon heterosexuals.

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1 “Unnatural vice between two persons of the male sex … is punishable with imprisonment … and loss of civil rights.”

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
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  • EISSN: 2514-9946
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Sexual Offences and Diminished Responsibility [Sexual délikt und verminderte Zurechnungs fahigkeit] (Psych.-neur. Wochensch., December 25th, 1909.) Näcke, P.

  • M. Eden Paul
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