Synopses & Reviews
"Solitary Pleasures is the first anthology to address masturbation, exploring both the history and artistic representation of autoeroticism. Masturbation today enjoys a highly equivocal and contradictory status among cultural discourses relating to sexuality. On the one hand, it is the subject of much popular treatment, especially in sexual self-help books, advice columns, and in pop culture--for example, Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performance, a recent "Roseanne episode, and David Russell's movie "Spanking the Monkey. On the other hand, masturbation is still a taboo subject for most people in everyday conversation. Perhaps more surprising, it has been largely dismissed by academics as a trivial, humorous topic and the "history of a delusion."
It was not until the eighteenth century that "onanism" was portrayed as a morbid act of epidemic proportions that produced pox, hair loss, blindness, insanity, impotence and a horrible. Its prevention and treatment warranted diverse and often cruel measures: surveillance, diets, drugs, corsets, electrical alarms, urethral cauterization, clitoridectomy, and labial sewing. This literature's apocalyptic warnings about the personal and social morbidity of "pollution-by-the-hand" are largely unknown to most people today, but the ghostly echoes of these admonitions still inform and preserve the present taboo of the subject.
Why did this apparently innocuous activity become so overpoweringly stigmatized? Why was the eradication of masturbation one of the most important goals of 19th century public hygiene? Why, even after the "sexual revolution," is masturbation still shrouded in shame?
"Solitary Pleasures is the first anthology to takemasturbation seriously, as seriously as did those who subjected people to unusual physical and mental torture to curtail the "vicious pleasures of solitude." The volume includes work by scholars in history, literary studies, art history and cultural studies analyzing represent