Helen Singer Kaplan was a pioneer in sex therapy during the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. That’s why she was known as the “Sex Queen”. Well, that and the fact that she challenged the idea that sex was dirty and harmful. She believed that sex should be enjoyed as much as possible and that’s the gospel she preached. She looked at human sexual response in terms of desire, arousal and orgasm and combined psychoanalysis techniques with behavioral methods of treatment – she was known for it. Focus throughout her career was on psychosexual dysfunctions because, she believed, “these syndromes are among the most prevalent, worrying and distressing medical complaints of modern times.”
Dr. Kaplan was born in Vienna, Austria on February 6, 1929. She immigrated to the United States in 1940 and became a citizen in 1947. It would be in America where she would open the first clinic for sexual disorders established at a medical school. She was a psychologist, psychiatrist and an M.D. The New York Times described Kaplan as someone who was “considered a leader among scientific-oriented sex therapists”.
One of her protégés, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, told the Harvard Business Review, “I was also very well trained—I was fortunate to work for seven years at Cornell with Helen Singer Kaplan, who wrote the most important textbook on sex therapy.”
We’re all better off because Helen Singer Kaplan was here. She challenged the conventional thinking of her time and told us that sex is a good thing. She wanted us to enjoy it as often as possible and dedicated her career to helping people overcome sexual dysfunction. She also trained others, like Dr. Ruth, to continue in her tradition of improving lives by moving sex out of the shadow of shame. In my mind, Helen more than earned her Sex Queen title and deserves a prominent spot on any list of heroines of the Sexual Revolution.