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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