MISANDRY – Masturbation Hysteria

Masturbation hysteria is a bit of history that isn’t really history yet.

The moral panic around boys masturbating back in the late 19th, early 20th centuries was profound and it manifested in many ways. One was a market for what can only charitably be called chastity devices, since the sex they were aiming to prevent wasn’t going to result in inflicting someone else’s baby on anyone, and so was otherwise pointless.

This masturbation hysteria was general in the western world. Note how the inventor of one of those devices above was Hungarian. I get the sense there was a general fear of demasculinzation in this era – the popularity of Annie Oakley-type women shows just how much bully-boy masculinity was celebrated – and I think this played into fears of loss of vigor and sanity, all due supposedly to the supposedly enfeebling effects of masturbation.

The German film “The White Ribbon” explores another aspect of this hysteria. From the wiki:

The puritanical pastor leads confirmation classes and gives his pubescent children a guilty conscience over apparently small transgressions. He has them wear white ribbons as a reminder of the innocence and purity from which they have strayed. When his son confesses to impure touching, the pastor has the boy’s hands tied to his bed frame each night.

Then there routine circumcision as preached by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg to prevent masturbation. The quick spread of the practice speaks volumes about the dread the public felt in the face of this threat to the health of their boys.

Not content to be a sexual obsessive, Dr. Kellogg was also an early eugenics advocate, unsurprisingly. This was a man truly zealous for social reform!

As a side note, when people insisting that MGM in no way compares to FGM, saying that only FGM is intended to curtail sexual activity and satisfaction, they are just ignorant of the facts.

As I said, this history is not really history yet, because this attitude persists. It is encoded in slurs like “wanker” and “jerk”. Interestingly, while female masturbation is only recently celebrated as empowering, and often by people who sneer at male masturbation, it has never excited the frenzy to stamp it out that male masturbation has. I think the hyperagency/hypoagency binary is at the root of this. A woman who “fails”’ to get laid is not failing at anything because there is nothing here for her to succeed at, whereas a man who fails to get laid is a loser, a weakling, (and by the way this is where a lot of the energy in homophobia comes from.)

We still see this attitude expressed as virgin-shaming and gay-shaming. It is a common slur aimed at MRAs in feminist spaces, for instance – because they are progressive and gender egalitarian like that.

So masturbation hysteria is not history yet until we finally kill it. Grab your axes.

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  • gwallan

    Bit over a century ago doctors would frequently “prescribe” masturbation by various means for female patients suffering “hysteria”. Many devices were invented for this purpose. Steely Dan, the well known R&B/pop band, were named after a dildo mentioned in William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch.”

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators

  • Ginkgo

    Oh I love that about Steely Dan. Priceless.

    The attitudes around female masturbation were misogynist on at least a couple of levels. On the most basic level female sexual tension was regarded as a pathology to be treated medically rather than a signal that the women just needed sex.

  • typhonblue

    We still on for this thursday at 8 pm, Gingko? : )

  • Snake Oil Baron

    It’s always fascinating to see some women complaining to advice mongers that their men masturbate or look at porn as if it were a form of adultery or in some way pathological. It may not be a widely held view for women but it certainly isn’t as rare as one would hope.

  • gwallan

    @Snake Oil Baron…

    As with any sort of intimate contact women feel threatened if men are able to acquire it through a means other than women.

    Meanwhile a relevant limerick from pre internet days…

    The new cinematic emporium
    is not just a super sensorium
    but a highly effectual,
    heterosexual,
    mutual masturbatorium.

  • Copyleft

    It’s easy to explain the different societal attitudes; all you need is a handy double standard.

    When WOMEN masturbate, it’s because men are inadequate losers. U Go Girl!
    And when MEN masturbate, it’s because men are inadequate losers. What a basement-dwelling, tiny-penis loser.

    See? Very simple.

  • Ginkgo

    TB, it’s a date!

    Copyleft, you got it – the hyper-hypoagency binary.

    gwallan “As with any sort of intimate contact women feel threatened if men are able to acquire it through a means other than women. ”

    Yes. This is why I say the traditional femlae role is inherently prostitutional. We don’t have a rape culture, we have a prostitution culture.

  • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

    Jerry Seinfeld told Elaine the difference between male and female masturbation is: With you girls, its not the same, its part of man’s LIFESTYLE.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Contest (written by Larry David)

    Interesting aside: that Wikipedia link says the word “masturbation” was never used in the show! I really thought I heard it, but I didn’t… just like you THOUGHT you saw the knife strike Janet Leigh in PSYCHO, but instead you heard a knife going through a grapefruit and then you saw ink (not blood, not even red) going down a drain. All illusion! I am shocked to discover that this show was the same, and I thought I heard a word that was never actually used…instead they kept saying “Master of my domain” and a bunch of other euphemisms.

    I had no idea! (I love that episode, BTW.)

  • Dani

    It’s scary how recent the devices were (like 1911 in Philadelphia). It’s evidence for historial sexual oppression of males.

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    “This is why I say the traditional female role is inherently prostitutional. We don’t have a rape culture, we have a prostitution culture.”

    I’ve said that many times, though not quite so succinctly. I once wrote, “All women are prostitutes. All men are Johns. All sex is paid sex in one form or another… Rape is like shoplifting and occurs only when a man decides a woman’s asking price is too high.” And before anyone gets started, I am NOT equating the seriousness or harmfulness of rape with shoplifting.

  • John Smith

    Kelloggs was nuts (crunchy nuts perhaps) and I refuse to eat their products even now.

    Could you expand on your point about the origins of the energy behind homosexuality, it seems asserted, that or I’m reading the context all wrong.

  • Ginkgo

    “Could you expand on your point about the origins of the energy behind homosexuality, it seems asserted, ”

    Homophobia?

    It was just asserted, as a comment in passing. But it stands up to scrutiny. The standard feminist-friendly explantaion is that it derives from a contempt for femininity, which doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny, considering huge value straight men place on femininity, sometimes ot the point of risking thier lives.

    Instead what is held in contempt is weakness, and the facile equation of femininity with weakness inherent in the feminist-friendly standard explanation is frankly misogynist.

    What is held in contempt is weakness, as measured by failure to achieve. In some settings that standard can be met by making the grade by career success or soem feat of bravery, but in softer, more gentle settings a lot of that is out of reach or made unavailable. One last remaining feat is “getting the girl”. The memeplex of romance based on courtly love entrenches this, withe man cast as the suitor in perpetual service to his Lady.

    So failure or refusal to pursue a woman is cast as a failure of masculinity. That’s the source of homophobia.

    I am well aware the term homophobia applies oot contempt for lesbians too, but I think we can all agree that hatred of lesbians never reaches the level of toxicity and actual physical violence that anti-gay homophobia does.

  • John Anderson

    There was a line in a GMP article that has stayed with me and I believe explains this whole fear. The article was written by a man who had no libido. His wife finally stopped begging for affection and told him that he’d have to initiate. He phrased it as when sex was taken off the table she got her power back.

    Society’s whole obsession with denying men and boys freedom to self stimulate and watch porn (take sex off the table) is tied to the desire to maximize women’s sexual power.

  • Ginkgo

    Hey John! It’s been awhile!

    That is exactly what t comes down to in our day. Either it was laws that ensured a woman got enough sex to have the kids she wanted, and allowed her to divorce her husband, but not the other way around, if he didn’t perfom; or was simple prohibitions against any kind of sexual pleasure as opposed to purely reproductive sex.