General Timeline

Upper Paleolithic

28,000 BCE Many societies globally have fertility symbols that are present, such as the Venus of Willendorf, a Venus figurine found in Austria.

Venus von Willendorf 01

Bronze Age

400-200 BCE The Kama Sutra is compiled by the Indian philosopher, Vātsyāyana , a book that explores the art of living well, or more commonly interpreted as the spirituality of sexual pleasure.

Kama, mithuna artwork in Hindu temples

High Middle Ages

1140 The Benedictine monk, Gratian, introduced the concept of marriage as consent between two people in his canon law textbook, Decretum Gratiani. Prior to this, marriages were arranged between families.


1275 The Statutes of Westminster ruled that sexual intercourse with a girl ‘within age’ (under the marital age of 12) was illegal.


1549 Marriage vows were written by Thomas Cranmer in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ for English Protestantism.

Thomas Cranmer by Gerlach Flicke

1563 Marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments within Catholicism by the Council of Trent, although there are earlier assertions of marriage as a sacrament dating to the 12th Century.

1576 Sexual intercourse with girls under the age of 10 was classified as a felony: sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 10-12 was classified as a misdemeanour.


1670 Parliament passed an act to allow divorce on the grounds of a wife’s adultery.


1753 The Clandestine Marriage Act required couples to get married in a church or chapel by a minister. Couples were also required to issue a formal marriage announcement (or ‘banns’), or obtain a licence.


1836 The Marriage Act allowed non-religious civil marriages to be conducted in registry offices.

1843 Dr. Martin Barry discovered the link between spermatozoa fertilising the ovum and pregnancy.

1875 The age of consent was changed: sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 10-12 was a felony, while between 12 and 13 was classified as a misdemeanour.

1882 The diaphragm (or ‘Occlusive Pessary’) was invented by Dr. Wilhelm Mensinga.

1885 The age of consent was raised to under 13 as a felony and a misdemeanour for 13-16 years of age.

1886 The German psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, publishes a study on sexual perversity.

Richard v. Krafft-Ebing

1889 The first sex education course at a British school is run by Cecil Reddie at Abbotsholme School, near Rocester in Staffordshire.

1892 The term ‘heterosexual’ was first published in C.G. Chaddock’s translation of ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’ by Kafft-Ebing.

Krafft-Ebing Psychopathia sexualis 1886


1901 Havelock Ellis published ‘The Studies of Psychology of Sex’, a book that suggested that women do enjoy sex, also that homosexuality was an inherent trait.

2160 C 44 - Ellis - Studies in the Psychology of Sex Vol. 1

1905 Nettie Stevens, a geneticist who researched beetles, suggested that sex was determined by the X and Y chromosomes.

Nettie Stevens

1916 Margaret Sanger established the first birth control clinic in New York, however she is arrested ten days later and is imprisoned for a month.

1919 Magnus Hirschfeld established the ‘Institut für Sexualwissenschaft’ (The Institute for Sexology) in Berlin, a multi-agency institute consisting of doctors, psychiatrists, marriage counsellors, and so forth. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933.

Magnus Hirschfeld 1929

1919 Frederick Killian develops the latex condom. They had previously been made from rubber, animal skins, cloth, and even horn.

Condom 1900


1920s The ‘rhythm method’ of contraception was developed by Japanese and Australian scientists.


1938 The USA decriminalise birth control.


1948 to 1954 Dr. Alfred Kinsey publishes a series of reports on sexuality within society.

Alfred Kinsey 1955


1953 Hugh Hefner publishes the first edition of ‘Playboy’, featuring Marilyn Monroe on the front cover.

Hugh Hefner Glamourcon 2010


1969 The Divorce Reform Act allowed couple to cite martial breakdown as the reason for divorce.


1973 The magazine ‘Playgirl’ is first published.

1978 Louise Joy Brown was the first baby to be born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF).



2000 The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2000 stated that the age of consent for penetrative sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation is 16 years of age, regardless of sexual orientation. If a person is aged under 18, the maximum prison sentence is 5 years: of over 18, the offender may receive up to 14 years.