Monday, August 14, 2006

Solitary Sex: A Cultural history of Masterbation

"This is the first cultural history of the world's most common sexual practice: masturbation. At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is front-page news, the easiest and least harmful one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged.

But this has not always been the case. The ancient world cared little about masturbation: it was of no great concern in Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, as Thomas Laqueur dramatically shows, solitary sex as an important medical and moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history: the solitary vice, self-pollution, or self-abuse came into being around 1712. A creature of the Englightenment, masturbation at first worried not conservatives — for whom it had long been but one among many sins of the flesh — but rather the progressives who welcomed sexual pleasure but struggled to create an ethics of self-government. The first truly democratic sexuality, masturbation was of ethical interest to both men and women, young and old.

Solitary Sex explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin of the great virtues of modern commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire. It shows how a moral problem became a medical one, how some of the most famous doctors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were convinced that solitary pleasures killed or maimed. In the early twentieth century, Freud and his successors transformed this tradition: masturbation defined a stage in human development, the foundational sexuality that culture transformed for its own purposes. And, finally, in the late twentieth century, masturbation became for some a key element in the struggle for sexual, personal, and even artistic liberation."

13 comments:

Wandering Coyote said...

I always thought it was the Catholic church that had demonized this practice.

I can only imagine what Google searches people are going to do to bring them to your blog now... ;)

The Editor said...

This practice isn't confined to Humankind. We have a masturbating chicken "Puffson". An adolescent chap going through the familiar period of frustration. To start with, when he first discovered it, blocks of firewood served as targets. now however he's quite happy to get it on with the lawn right alongside any more matiure hen. In fact he seems to have become quite addicted to it, needless to say the hens completely ignore the performance. i see it as a form of frottaging or maybe poultry pornography. It possibly is affecting his ability to form any meaningful relationship though...

Horny Old Guy said...

This subject matter is truly shocking to me!

* (asterisk) said...

Candy, um... you mentioned on Red's page that your right hand is called Keanu Reeves... Any connection to this post?!

Rauf said...

It does not harm any one Candy

the cappuccino kid said...

what a title to be faced with at 6:45am!!!
go girl! a little of what you enjoy does you good!

Pie said...

Pulling the plonker, choking the chicken, beating the meat.

I'd think of more but I'm horny and I need to excuse myself to the bathroom...

It's amazing how many people still claim never to have masturbated (whether they have or not is another matter).

As far as I'm concerned it's perfectly healthy. Even pornography was openly shown up until recent history (Victorian era? I dunno) until someone decided it was wrong.

There is a South American tribe which determines the 'pecking order' so to speak by making the lower members of the tribe masturbate the elders, now that's a little weird...

Pie said...

Was looking for an article about it but couldn't find one. This one's quite interesting though.

Tanya said...

Oh now that is just too interesting NOT to go out and read.

Thanks for the tip.

Candy Minx said...

I thought this sounded like an interesting book too Tanya. I've read some of his stuff before and he is ahem, thourough.

Yes Asterisk, that is my name for my hand, the other is Brad. I think it makes Stagg a little upset when I joke about it eek.

I am so pleased to hear people perspective on this post, what a delight.

One of his other books talks about creating the ide aof different sexes...whereas herbal medicine and pre-enlightenment peoples bodies were considered "the same" despite sex.

Red said...

Oh, I'd left you a big long comment about Cat masturbating on *'s arm when he feels randy, but for some reason it didn't save. What a shame (I was basically echoing The Editor in saying that animals definitely do it too...)

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