As evidence of the disturbed nature of those who identify as psychiatrists, i have more than once written about the way in which that theory has taken over the role of much medieval moralising. That is, it supports normative behaviour, whilst classifying as disordered many activities which we now recognise not to be.

I am fairly clear on the chequered history of homosexuality, which continued to be classed as “disorder” until very recently.

I also quote, with some trepidation, the “fact” that masturbation – espesh female masturbation – was also classified as disorder until relatively recently.

I say with trepidation, because i prefer always to be able to source facts directly and first hand – and on this one topic, most of my knowledge is second hand. The best i have found on this recently is over on the site of e-articles, from which i read the following:

“Between 1856 and 1919 the United States Patent Office granted patents for forty-nine antimasturbation devices. Thirty-five were for horses and fourteen for humans (horses could masturbate?). The human devices, intended for boys, were placed around his penis and consisted of either sharp points turned inward to jab the boy’s penis should he get an erection, or an electrical system to deliver shocks. We don’t know how many of these devices were actually used, or what effect they had on the children. Although masturbation in men was repeatedly denounced, female masturbation was opposed with even greater ferocity.

“Women who masturbated were regarded by nineteenth-century medical professionals as manifesting dangerous masculine appetites. Starting in 1858, some women were subjected to a clitoridectomy, which effectively removed all possibility of clitoral pleasure. This operation continued as a treatment for female masturbation until 1937, even though it had been discredited by the medical profession a half century earlier.

“In the twentieth century, masturbation was rediagnosed by psychiatrists as a sexual perversion. Though they did not go so far as to say masturbation would lead to insanity, they did suggest it led to “abnormal” sexual development, and, some feared, homosexuality—which some psychiatrists did believe was a form of insanity. Until 1968, masturbation remained as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

“Even today, many psychiatrists say that masturbation is not in itself a disorder—unless practiced too much. In other words, it’s accepted as a substitute for heterosexual intercourse when that is unavailable, but anyone who chooses to masturbate rather than to have sex with another person is regarded as infantile or disturbed. (Read Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis by Ronald Bayer.)”

Still, this is given as assertion and not really referenced. So, if anyone can give me chapter and verse on this subject, i’d be most grateful.



About janefae

On my way from here to there
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4 Responses to wankers!

  1. Liz Church says:

    At this point, Holmes would send Watson ’round to the library of the RCPsych…

  2. kathz says:

    Look up William Acton’s Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs – a manual widely-used by doctors in Victorian Britain. I read it 10 or 15 years ago when teaching Victorian literature – I had to find a copy in the British Library. For more recent approaches, I have a Left Book Club book of 1937 called Modern Marriage and Birth Control by Edward J Griffith. This went through many editions and includes, I think (the book is on my office shelves) a section on male masturbation under a heading that is something like “Some problems”. It also warns against marriage across classes except in exceptional circumstances and favours eugenics, though only to the degree that the unfit should be warned not to breed (not the most extreme form of eugenics at the time).

    I’m not using these for the same purpose as you but for historical context to literature – but you may find them a good starting point.

  3. kathz says:

    I should have mentioned that the Griffith book doesn’t admit the possibility of female masturbation, but you might have guessed that anyway.

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