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Among the pictures here are three studies of a shaven-headed woman seemingly in the grip of "hysteria", a malady previously thought to be the result of unchecked female desire.

Freud relied on hypnosis and free association to unlock buried memories.

His book Sexual Inversion, published in 1897, two years after the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, was the first to suggest that homosexuality might be inborn and natural rather than volitional and perverse.

His own sexual kink was urolagnia, namely being turned on by the sight of someone peeing.

In the Rotherham sex abuse case, police who were confronted with the pleas of a 14-year-old girl, that she'd been serially abused by dozens of men, concluded that the sex was "consensual".

The introduction to the exhibition handily locates the first public discussion of sex in the Counter-Reformation of the 16th century: rather than brush it under the carpet as unmentionable, the Catholic church yanked it into the open, and required the faithful "not only to acknowledge the flesh as the root of all evil, but also to be bound by the imperative of confession, to declare every transgressive act and transform every desire into language".

Wellcome's exhibits are the flower of the collection.

Erotic scenes on plaster casts, purporting to be ancient but clearly 19th century, show how excited the Victorians were by the discovery of erotic imagery all over Pompeii.

Decent English people are disgusted at your filthy suggestions in Married Love") and by desperate ladies who treated her as a 1920s Pamela Stephenson ("Dear Doctor, I am writing to you for your kind advice as I am very worried.

When Sigmund Freud first suggested that sexual emotion was the unrealised key to neurotic trauma, he was considered a dangerous madman.

Even Marie Stopes, herself a revolutionary in bringing sex practices into the open, told her patients: "Don't please think about the unconscious mind; all the filthiness of this psychoanalysis does unspeakable harm." Investigations of sex practice by Henry Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft-Ebing were greeted with intense suspicion, while the "orgone box" experimentations of Wilhelm Reich (as portrayed in the film WR: Mysteries of the Organism) were held up to ridicule that was no less mocking than that applied to those Swedish "sex instruction" films of the 1960s.

They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.

But, warns John Walsh, when you put scientists and psychologists together with sex the results can dampen the ardour There's always been a whiff of impropriety about attempts to apply scientific research to human sex behaviour.

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