Due to its controversial subject matter–puberty, sexuality, rape, child abuse, homosexuality, suicide, abortion–the play has often been banned or censored.
Anarchist Emma Goldman praised the play's portrayal of childhood and sexuality in her 1914 treatise The Social Significance of the Modern Drama.
Camilla Eibenschütz played Wendla in the 1906 Berlin production. It was first staged in English in 1917 in New York City. This performance was threatened with closure when the city's Commissioner of Licenses claimed that the play was pornographic, but a New York trial court issued an injunction to allow the production to proceed. One matinee performance was allowed for a limited audience. The New York Times deemed it a "tasteless production of a badly translated version [of] the first and most celebrated play by the brilliant Frank Wedekind." The production at the 39th Street Theatre starred Sidney Carlyle, Fania Marinoff and Geoffrey C. Stein.
There was a 1955 off-Broadway production at the Provincetown Playhouse. In 1963, the play was produced in England, but for only two nights and in censored form. It was also produced in 1978 by Joseph Papp, directed by Liviu Ciulei.