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1 Beaverton Sexuality- General
1 Burnside Health and Medicine- Sex

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation

by

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Working with material from the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible to third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the World Wide Web, historian Thomas Laqueur uses medical and philosophical texts, as well as diaries, autobiographies, and pornography to tell the story of what has become the last taboo.

Review:

"Laqueur calls masturbation both the 'first truly democratic sexuality' and the 'crack cocaine of sex': at once addictive and readily accessible to all. His writing is free from embarrassment and needless jargon (though it does not shy away from complex formulations of manual sex's complexes), and, with 32 b&w illustrations, it should be a big hit on campus." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Laqueur tackles with aplomb what has been called the last taboo....As a cultural historian, Laqueur casts a wide net, snaring Samuel Pepys and Pee Wee Herman, Rousseau and Seinfeld, philosophers and pornographers, Greek urns and contemporary photos. Sheds bright light on an aspect of human behavior hitherto relegated to history's shadows." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] compendious and witty analysis..." Jenny Diski, The Los Angeles Times

Review:

"An engaging writer, [Laqueur] has a penchant for with-it language...and in the later part of his book he devotes too much attention to transgressive artists whose cultural importance is marginal. His assertion that after the 'post-porn' performance art of Annie Sprinkle masturbation 'will never be the same' seems, to say the least, unlikely." The New Yorker

Review:

"The narrative...bogs down in detail, although Laqueur helpfully advises readers where to jump ahead in order to pick up the primary thread. In any case, such weaknesses are more from an excess of authorial devotion than a lapse in judgment, and his fervor, it's a relief to report, is both contagious and guilt-free." Mark Holcomb, The Village Voice

Synopsis:

A historical account of masturbation as a moral issue and cultural taboo.

Synopsis:

At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract

Synopsis:

At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract Onania in about 1722. Masturbation is a creation of the Enlightenment, of some of its most important figures, and of the most profound changes it unleashed. It is modern. It worried at first not conservatives, but progressives. It was the first truly democratic sexuality that could be of ethical interest for women as much as for men, for boys and girls as much as for their elders.

The book's range is vast. It begins with the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible and ends with third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the Web. It explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin—or the perfect instance—of the great virtues of modern humanity and commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire.

About the Author

Thomas W. Laqueur, winner of the Mellon Foundation's 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award, is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781890951320
Subtitle:
A Cultural History of Masturbation
Author:
Laqueur, Thomas Walter
Author:
Laqueur, Thomas W.
Publisher:
Zone Books
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Psychology
Subject:
Sexuality
Subject:
Human Sexuality
Subject:
Sex
Subject:
Social history
Subject:
Masturbation
Subject:
Masturbation in literature.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
107-71
Publication Date:
March 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
32
Pages:
501
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Sex
Health and Self-Help » Sexuality » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$22.00 In Stock
Product details 501 pages Zone Books - English 9781890951320 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Laqueur calls masturbation both the 'first truly democratic sexuality' and the 'crack cocaine of sex': at once addictive and readily accessible to all. His writing is free from embarrassment and needless jargon (though it does not shy away from complex formulations of manual sex's complexes), and, with 32 b&w illustrations, it should be a big hit on campus."
"Review" by , "Laqueur tackles with aplomb what has been called the last taboo....As a cultural historian, Laqueur casts a wide net, snaring Samuel Pepys and Pee Wee Herman, Rousseau and Seinfeld, philosophers and pornographers, Greek urns and contemporary photos. Sheds bright light on an aspect of human behavior hitherto relegated to history's shadows."
"Review" by , "[A] compendious and witty analysis..."
"Review" by , "An engaging writer, [Laqueur] has a penchant for with-it language...and in the later part of his book he devotes too much attention to transgressive artists whose cultural importance is marginal. His assertion that after the 'post-porn' performance art of Annie Sprinkle masturbation 'will never be the same' seems, to say the least, unlikely."
"Review" by , "The narrative...bogs down in detail, although Laqueur helpfully advises readers where to jump ahead in order to pick up the primary thread. In any case, such weaknesses are more from an excess of authorial devotion than a lapse in judgment, and his fervor, it's a relief to report, is both contagious and guilt-free."
"Synopsis" by , A historical account of masturbation as a moral issue and cultural taboo.
"Synopsis" by , At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract
"Synopsis" by , At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract Onania in about 1722. Masturbation is a creation of the Enlightenment, of some of its most important figures, and of the most profound changes it unleashed. It is modern. It worried at first not conservatives, but progressives. It was the first truly democratic sexuality that could be of ethical interest for women as much as for men, for boys and girls as much as for their elders.

The book's range is vast. It begins with the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible and ends with third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the Web. It explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin—or the perfect instance—of the great virtues of modern humanity and commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire.
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