More of a historical perspective with less practical application to put into practice today Also I looked for current taboos as masturbation relates to religion, eg the RC churches long standing admonition that it is self abuse to waste Onan s seed and therefore considered a venial mortal sin Many of us back in the 40 s 50 s had that DRILLED into us in the confessional box and struggled with it to the point of psychological confusion Maybe if it had been viewed differently we wouldn t have the current sex scandals pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church An RC nun has written a book stating that she believes the church errored in its teaching on masturbation She has been ostracized for her book I donated Solitary Sex to my local library. Meets all expectations. I like reading about cultural backgrounds of sex topis, such as impotence and masturbation This book provides a very fascinating and informative account of how masturbation has been vilified and denigrated over the ages, and can, will and should go very far in helping people overcome inhibitions and culturally negative and unhelpful attitudes Masturbation can be very constructive and helpful towards teaching and helping people have orgasms in sexual relationships Masturbation should not be an either or, related to intercourse or interpersonal sex It should be thought of as a person can eat alone, or eat with others. In his tome Solitary Sex A Cultural History of Masturbation , Thomas Laqueur pictures the different historical views upon masturbation throughout the past 4000 years of Western culture This rather classical undertaking gets its particular note by pointing out Enlightenment as the spiritual father of our modern understanding of masturbation In his main argument, the author claims that it was pretty much in or around the year 1712 when masturbation was altered into a serious disease So he sets out to discover what happened in the course of this era that made a hitherto rather harmless and less noticed vice so morally dangerous.Laqueur provides a coherent historical analysis of the matter, basing his argumentation meticulously on historical sources Throughout the book, he focuses on the struggles that rose from the establishment of the modern self and the modern society during the Enlightenment He interprets the war on masturbation after 1712 as a proxy war for these struggles in a period of shifting power structures the decrease of the church s and monarch s power, and the rise of modern medicine and democracy at the dawn of the creation of modern society.Laqueur begins his book with a brief preview and summary of his argumentation in the first chapter In the second chapter, he outlines the spread of masturbation from its beginning as a moral disease until the present According to him, the idea of masturbation as a disease was invented by a clever businessman in 1712 who wrote a treatise stressing its wickedness, blaming it for many of the circulating diseases during that time and, simultaneously, offering an ex pensive cure that worried readers could acquire from him First published in London, this treatise spread soon towards the whole of Europe, informing the general, increasingly literate public about the putative bad consequences of masturbation amongst others, blindness, pallor, faintness, headache, epilepsy, insanity, and even death Laqueur then continues to depict how masturbation was seen before 1712 in the third chapter He takes the reader on a compendious historical tour up to the eve of the Enlightenment, showing how masturbation apparently always has been a common practice, but how ancient sources do not seem to deal with it as an independent subject Masturbation was rather situated lowest on the scale up to all conceivable and inconceivable sexual deviancies If at all, it was considered a dangerous step towards greater evil in Christianity, e.g violation of the social and divine order, just as all kinds of sexuality for non procreative purposes.In chapter four, we get closer to the explanandum where Laqueur depicts the problems that became linked to masturbation around 1700 According to Laqueur, it became a horror in the eyes of the advocates of the Enlightenment Kant even considered it worse than suicide firstly because masturbation emerged as a practice done in secret There were no witnesses, and it was the only vice that could be committed even without the sinner being aware of sinning Secondly, the focus shifted towards it being prone to excess and alluring to worse practices Since the stimulation for it came from within, and since it was entirely divorced from any social order, there was no restriction to the vice Masturbation was seen as the crack cocaine of sexuality p 21 And thirdly, it began to be considered as a creature of the imagination, a realm evading social control and over portraying a dull and false imitation of the real thing, that is, heterosexual marital intercourse.Finally, the analysis climaxes in the fifth chapter, where Laqueur illustrates why masturbation became a problem just at the dawn of the Enlightenment namely, because the history of masturbation is part of the history of how the morally autonomous modern subject was created and sustained p 21 In the description of how a new sexual practice was invented and created, the argumentation follows closely Foucault s History of Sexuality The basic components of masturbation imagination, excess, solitude, and privacy became problematic, because they represent the struggle of the individual in the modern society without fixed poles between individualism and solipsism, self determination and anomie, craving and moderation, creativity and restrained imagination Masturbation, so Laqueur s final coup, is the first great psychic battlefield for these struggles p 21 Firstly, the coming into adulthood of humanity p 19 aimed at transferring the responsibility for morality from rulers and circumstances to the individual The new society did not need well working moral institutions any, but autonomous, righteous men that could control themselves Secrets were poison to this system Secondly, the possible excess related to masturbation became than ever a problem at the dawn of early capitalism, when self moderation became important to individuals And thirdly, too much and the wrong kind of imagination was dangerous in a society that began to embrace efficiency and calculation It was thought that it could lead into madness, an idea that simultaneously manifested itself in the contemporary passionate debate about the dangers of fictional reading, especially for young women This is why, during this period of rational education and the up coming of natural science and medicine, masturbation became naturally bad , a scientifically proven disease.In the sixth chapter, Laqueur shows how Freud released masturbation from than two hundred years of moral wickedness and made it a natural stage of development that all humans pass, but which has to be abandoned on the eve of infancy The last significant twist that masturbation underwent was the sexual liberation in the course of the gays and women s movements in the second half of the twentieth century.Laqueur is without a doubt an astonishing expert on the topic and he deserves credit for his innovative thesis of linking the origin of modern masturbation to the Enlightenment Unfortunately, he fails to comprehensively put his knowledge on paper Solitary Sex is one of those books that gave me a confused impression, feeling like the author had a legitimate point and actually interesting things to say, but somehow failed to convey the message The book shines in giving vivid examples like the framing example of the White House s view on masturbation and Jocelyn Elder s dismissal and provoking interesting thoughts, but fails at presenting them in a concise structure.After having waded through the whole book, I must say I find the twelve pages of the first chapter an excellent summary and helpful in understanding Laqueur s brilliant argumentation than the following 400 pages Reading the complete book might help to understand the summary in the first chapter and gives some interesting examples, but is not really worth the long winded perusal I therefore recommend to give extended consideration to the first chapter It can perfectly serve as a summary and stand alone as a short coherent treatise It might also be helpful in the decision on which chapter to actually read Since the core argumentation is mainly developed in chapter four and five, they provide a helpful lecture for further and deeper understanding of the argumentation The other chapters should only be read given further inter est in the topic and the original historical sources.So, who will profit from the lecture In parts, everyone who has a penchant for history, culture and social practices In its entirety, Laqueur s book might be fascinating for the professional historian audience that is interested in detailed explanations Readers who are looking for a stringently elaborated argumentation, easy answers, and quick conclusions risk to be disappointed because of Laqueur s repetitive writing style, the partially lengthily explanations, and the claim of comprehensiveness.Laqueur must put up with the accusation of lacking cultural sensitivity, when he equates West ern culture with humankind Not spending a single comment on the issue, he appears to write in general about human culture throughout the whole book Nevertheless, almost all of his examples are taken from European culture, thus completely ignoring the great range of variety existing apart from that This blunder is fairly unforgivable for such a renowned historian writer as Laqueur.Since he completely ignores other contemporary works on the subject, it makes it hard to judge his reputation and his scientific standing among his colleagues Laqueur might not be the first one in having written a compendious analysis on masturbation, but he is the first one to link its modern origins specifically to the Enlightenment He does surely not need to fear urologist Mels van Driel in the hunt of the title for the one and only classical cultural history of masturbation Van Driel s With the hand A Cultural History of Masturbation 2012 is a 255 page attempt to break the putative taboo surrounding masturbation than the actual cultural historical scientific analysis that the title promises Jean Stenger s and Anne van Neck s Masturbation The History of a Great Terror 2001 deals with pretty much the same topic, just less detailed, less analytic, and less comprehensive Starting in 1712, it focuses on the Enlightenment, touches on Freud and ends with a comparison of drugs and masturbation one day, so the prediction, societies might show surprise at the image of a bogey against which it had been necessary to declare war p 179 It can in no way keep up with Laqueur s brilliance, but has the pleasant benefit that it can be read in one afternoon.From a sociological perspective, the book has, given the historical background of its writer, perfectly natural, its shortcomings because it exhausts itself in historical treatises and fails at giving an evaluation of what its implications actually mean for our society nowadays Even in the very end of the book, when the history of masturbation has reached the present, Laqueur does not give up his historical perspective The only sentence Laqueur gives the reader in this regard is the very last one, where he gives the cautious summary It masturbation remains poised between self discovery and self absorption, desire and excess, privacy and loneliness, innocence and guilt as does no other sexuality in our era p 420 The historical background presented by Laqueur could provide the prefect stepping stone for sociologists to elaborate on how masturbation might be seen today and which effects the depicted historical traits have upon our modern view on masturbation.Further, it touches a good deal of classical topics that sociologists might genuinely be interested in just to name a few, the construction of gender through sexual practices the dynamics and implications of shifting power struggles the rise of medicine, natural sciences, and nature as universally valid and unquestioned explanation for everything the establishment of modern society and modern individualism The focus on masturbation, a practice that is sup posed to have technically remained or less the same, shows one time how greatly cultural perspectives upon social practices varied during the past few centuries. A heavy, comprehensive history of self love. A Historical Account Of Masturbation As A Moral Issue And Cultural TabooAt 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 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 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 EldersThe 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