Masturbation history and Revolution – Nowadays, masturbation or masturbation is still seen as a taboo and dismissed as a shameful activity, but it was not always the case. In ancient times it was a common act, personal and private (most times), but never degrading or prohibited by any law. It is not very clear since when it began to be condemned and seen as something perverse and amoral, but what we are sure of, is that a large part of the fault was that of the church.
The oldest myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt speak of the god Apsu, who was born from the primordial ocean, creating himself through masturbation, saliva and tears, and thus gave life to the Milky Way. That is why it is not uncommon for Egyptian queens to be buried more than four thousand years ago with all the objects they would need in the afterlife, mainly clothes, combs and their dildos (also called dildos).
Although only the rigid code of the Spartans condemned masturbation, the rest of the Greeks considered it a gift from the gods since the god Hermes taught his son Pan, better known as Fauno, to masturbate to endure the scorn of the nymph Echo . The Faun learned the lesson well, overcame its pain and transmitted the teaching to the first shepherds of the Greek Arcadia.
Masturbation was common in men and women, but it is important to note that, although it was a gift from the gods, it was considered a private and very personal activity, although as every rule had its exception. For example, the philosopher Diogenes raised his toga and masturbated in front of the public in the agora. Obviously the town was surprised and the girls-some more, some less-blushed. Diogenes tried to teach that all human activities deserve to be done in public, that none of them is so shameful as to require privacy. In any case, although innovative and daring in every way, his proposal, his contemporaries did not agree and it was not seconded.
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The famous Greek doctor Galen argued that the semen retention in the organism was dangerous and causing bad health. He cited the same Diogenes as an example of a cultured person, who practiced sex and also masturbated to avoid the risks of retention.
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The playwrights also mentioned the dildos in their comedies, while the artisans represented them in their jars and bowls. The city of Miletus by that date had become famous throughout the Mediterranean due to the leather with which they made their dildos. So much so that Lysistrata, the heroine of Aristophanes’ homonymous work , complained sadly about the lack of dildos:
“And not even the lovers have been left a spark, because since the Milesians betrayed us, I have not seen a single leather dildo eight fingers long that served as a relief” cueril ». So, if I found a way, would you want to end the war with my help? ”
For those who do not know, Lysistrata is a comedy that tells the story of a group of women who decided to suspend sexual relations with their husbands, until they put an end to the endless war between Athens and Sparta. To achieve their goal, they miss the good dildos of Mileto made with dog fur, yes, dog.
There is something that is important to point out, and that is that masturbation among adult Greek men was also seen as a sign of poverty, since when they had money they preferred to pay a sex worker.
Well, continuing with the course of history, masturbation fell into disfavor in Europe with the beginning of Christianity, but the curious thing is that the Bible makes no mention of masturbation. In spite of that, the first parents of the church were opposed to this practice in the same way as to any type of non-reproductive sex. For example, Augustine of Hippo (350-430 AD), an influential bishop of the first years of the Christian church, taught that masturbation and other forms of relationships without penetration were worse sins than fornication, rape, incest or adultery. He argued that masturbation and other non-reproductive sexual activities were “unnatural” sins because they were contraceptives. As fornication, rape, incest and adultery could lead to pregnancy, they were “natural” sins and therefore far less serious than “unnatural” sins. In this way and from this date, masturbation was considered a more serious sin than rape or incest.
The condemnation of Augustine of Hippo to masturbation as an unnatural sin was accepted by the whole church during the Middle Ages and re-established in the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.
The biblical story of Onan, often cited as a text against masturbation, actually refers to the sin that Onan committed in refusing to obey God’s command to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law. Onan copulated with her but retired before ejaculating and “shed his seed” outside the woman’s body, that is, she performed a common and wild coitus interruptus. The Law of Moses dictated that anyone who spilled their semen on infertile land was doing it in the wrong place. In the 16th century, Martin Luther confused that interrupts with “palm of the hand”, and with that contributes to increasing the stigma that he was already carrying.
For the fifteenth century, the theologian Jean Gerson in his penitential model De Confessione Mollities, taught priests how to induce women and men to confess “that detestable sin”. Gerson suggested guiding them with an innocent question like this: “Friend, do you remember having your penis erect during your childhood, around 10 or 12 years old?” Then, he suggested going directly to the penitent if he had touched or ejaculated.
The penance manuals also specified the corresponding penalties, which, it must be said, were relatively minor compared to other penalties. They usually fluctuated in the range of thirty days of special prayers and fasting. Come on, a trifle.
At the end of the 16th century, the scientist Gabriello Fallopio taught the males to pull their penises energetically and frequently to stretch it, strengthen it and in this way increase its procreation power, but their theories were equally repudiated by the church.
In the 18th century, the ill-fated doctor Samuel August Tissot appeared, with a book published in 1760 that must have been burned. From that pamphlet were published hundreds of editions that were read from Voltaire and Rousseau to the founders of the United States, which spread the most horrifying myths about masturbation and “post-masturbatory” syndrome. Europe and North America were steeped in Tissot’s warnings about masturbation and curiously it was published well into the 20th century, creating an almost universal fear. In his treatise Tissot illustrates an anecdote of a man, who according to the author, had received late treatment for the terrifying disease:
“… I went to his home and what I found was more a corpse than a living being lying on hay, skinny, pale, exuding a nauseating stench, almost unable to move.” Blood flowed from his nose, he drooled constantly, he suffered attacks of diarrhea and defecating in his bed without noticing, there was a constant flow of semen, his eyes, bulging, blurred and dull had lost all ability to move, his pulse was extremely weak and accelerated, his breathing was difficult, he was totally emaciado, except on the feet that showed signs of edema. “
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“The mental disorder was equally evident, he had no ideas or memory, he was unable to connect two sentences, he had no capacity for reflection, without fear for his fate, lacking in any feeling except for the pain that returned at least every three days with every new attack, this sank him to the level of a beast, a spectacle of unimaginable horror, it was hard to believe that he had ever belonged to the human race, and he died several weeks later, in June 1757, with his whole body covered with edema. “
“The problems experienced by women are as explainable as those of men, because the moods that they lose are less precious, less perfect than male sperm, they do not weaken so quickly, but when they surrender excessively, because their nervous system is more weak and naturally more inclined to spasms, the problems are more violent. “
This represented the agony of a man afflicted with the evil of masturbation
Also in the Victorian era masturbation was seen almost as the root of many of the world’s problems. Several books of medicine of the XIX century describe as direct sequels of masturbation the lethargy, passive madness and the inevitable hair loss. Imagine the bad reputation that a poor bald Englishman wore. Some texts even considered it a potentially fatal practice. “In my opinion,” wrote Dr. Reveillè, “neither the plague nor the war has had such disastrous effects on humanity, as the miserable habit of masturbation.” Then began a lucrative wave of treatments for this “disease”, bringing healers to the United States. Unusual devices were patented to prevent unwanted nocturnal erections.
Likewise, in this same time, a curious phenomenon was presented: doctors used to fight female hysteria by manually caressing the clitoris of the patients until they could reach orgasm, which at that time was known as hysterical paroxysm since they considered sexual desire female repressed was a disease. Incredibly this custom gave rise to the birth of the vibrators since the doctors were tired of manually manipulating “so many clitoris”.
Woman in “hysterical paroxysm” after being masturbated by a doctor
Already in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sigmund Freud appears and recognizes that masturbation could have beneficial effects such as relieving stress and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, however he warned that masturbation could cause neurotic disorders, especially neurasthenia.
Until the nineteenth century, this was the image of a man who masturbated
The twentieth century was advancing and with the medical knowledge (physiological and psychological). Experts began to dismiss arguments that masturbation caused physical disorders, however, many still maintained the belief that masturbation was the consequence or lead to mental disorders. In 1930, for example, the sexologist Walter Gallichan, warned that masturbation in women was the cause of female apathy and coldness, that “their solitary gratifications overshadowed their sensitivity to marital intercourse.”
By mid-century the stigma against masturbation was still very strong. Studies showed that nine out of ten children who were found masturbating were severely threatened, punished and terrified with the argument that they would go crazy or blind, or that they would cut their penis or sew their vagina. 82% of the freshmen of the university still believed that masturbation was dangerous.
Alfred Kinsey (along with a group of colleagues) had to arrive and publish the results of more than 15 years of research on human sexual behavior. One of the most important contributions of this work was precisely to consider masturbation as something normal and to weaken the stigma that surrounded it. The results were revealing: 97% of men and 62% of women had ever masturbated in their lives and had reached orgasm.
It’s curious. Men, society, could accept Kinsey’s report on male sexual activities, but they could not accept “the harsh reality” of American women’s sexual behaviors. It was like a shock, like a bucket of cold water to machismo, finding out (or being told in the face) that a woman could masturbate, have orgasms, have sex before and outside of marriage or with other women. The church raised its voice of protest throughout the country. Without even taking a look or reading Kinsey’s work, the then charismatic religious Billy Graham wrote: “It is impossible to estimate the damage that this book will cause to the already deteriorated American morality.” The shaking was such that even a Senator (as always, McCarthy) denounced Kinsey’s work as part of the communist conspiracy. Throughout the country, people with the surname Kinsey published notices in the newspapers to clarify that they were not related to the author. Finally, and because of the furor, the Rockefeller Foundation withdrew its support for Kinsey’s research work, but it was too late, society (at least the Western world) had shed sexual taboos.
The studies carried out after Kinsey’s death confirmed his conclusions. By the 1970s, 84% of university students no longer believed that masturbation caused them emotional or mental instability, the myth had fallen. Still, in December 1994, at an AIDS conference sponsored by the UN, the then head of the Public Health Service of the United States, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, said that maybe masturbation should be taught in schools, as a part of school educational programs on sexuality. Because of these statements, President Bill Clinton asked him to resign, which he did not do. Finally, it was stopped.
Although science began treating masturbation a few decades ago as normal behavior, until now the most prominent religious institutions have refused to reevaluate the sexual principles that have governed them for more than fifteen centuries.
Masturbation as Revolution: history and science of how self-love was stigmatized
Masturbation is an example of a book on how morality has turned something natural, healthy and positive into an aberration. In the last century, masturbation has made an extraordinary journey from being something shameful and stigmatized to becoming a key piece for sexual and reproductive health. So let’s talk about masturbation in earnest and let’s not make mental straws.
What the science of masturbation says
For centuries, masturbation has been a hidden phenomenon and little studied. It was in the early twentieth century when doctors like Havelock Ellis began the scientific study of human sexuality and, little by little, the truth of these practices came to light. And that truth is, simply, that masturbation has numerous benefits.
Doing a brief review we can see that thanks to the release of dopamine that produces can act as an analgesic and alleviate headaches or, as Dr. Mariano Rosselló explains, premenstrual pain. It also prevents prostate cancer or dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) and contributes to the production of Immunoglobulin A, an antibody that acts as an initial defense against viruses and bacteria.
Masturbation has great benefits and is key to get a healthy and mature sex education
Orgasm and arousal release serotonin and (in the case of men) prolactin. That makes a good use of masturbation help us sleep. Also, thanks to the release of oxytocin, it makes us more sociable, sexier, more passionate and more energetic.
Some sexologists associate it with increased self-esteem and decreased symptoms of depression, but the data is inconclusive. And in many cases, the data show that orgasm plays a key role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Of course, that by this rule of three, make the laser too. Also, and this you will not believe, you can help with hiccups.
The great secret of masturbation
Once here, and unwittingly, we stumble face to face with the great secret of masturbation: that it has exactly the same benefits and harms as sex. Calcados. Two drops of water.
It can actually cause problems, especially during development. But as in food, education is the key. Children should develop a healthy sexuality, in the same way that they should develop healthy eating habits. Otherwise, outside of these problems (which in some cases can generate serious disorders) there is nothing in the extensive scientific literature that we have that makes us think that masturbation is something other than food, hygiene or sex.
Given this, the most obvious question is: Why is masturbation, even today, so badly seen? Moreover, why do we make such a strict separation from two phenomena that are more related than we think? And the explanation, surprising as it may seem, is intimately linked to monogamy.
The privatization of sexual pleasure
At some point in history, coinciding with the invention of agriculture and livestock, human beings invented monogamy. No, monogamy is not the ‘natural’ state of humanity (meaning what that means of ‘natural’), studies of primitive societies show that it was usual for a relatively small clique of men to ‘monopolize’ all women of the tribe.
The application of coercive methods (legal and moral) against adultery is a constant in History
In the year 18 before Christ, the emperor Augustus promulgated the Lex Iulia of adultery which not only typified the adultery committed by a married woman as a very serious criminal offense but forced the husband to publicly denounce it once he knew of infidelity.
By this, I mean that the application of coercive methods, whether moral or legal, to adultery, is a constant throughout history. We do not know very well why, the truth. A few months ago, a German-Canadian research group published an article in Nature explaining that sexually transmitted diseases played a key role in the emergence of monogamy.
According to his theory, primitive agriculture allowed for the first time communities of more than 300 people and also created the perfect breeding ground for diseases such as gonorrhea or syphilis became endemic. In these circumstances, traditional practices (not monogámicas) harmed those who had many relationships. It is a theory. Be that as it may, monogamy triumphed and shaped much of the social world we know today.
Masturbation as a revolutionary fact
What has been studied less is the fine relationship between monogamy and the bad image of masturbation. What we know about masturbation in the ancient world is scarce and contradictory. Marcial considered it an inferior form of sexual pleasure reserved for slaves. The Greeks, despite the common belief, should not see too well if we take into account that Diogenes the Dog, the greatly terrible infant of antiquity, masturbated in public (and attributed the invention of this to Hermes). On the other hand, in Egypt, we find a god, Atum, who created the world by masturbating and from whose ejaculation the Nile arose.
Where we can see this clearer relationship is the 18th century. In 1716, Baltasar Bekker, a Dutch theologian, used ‘onanism’ for the first time to refer to masturbation. The term (of biblical inspiration) is not precise because what Onan did in the Genesis was not masturbation but coitus interruptus. However, it is not a coincidence, in Christian theology began to appear the key idea of how bad was adultery as masturbation because both arose from a selfish interpretation of sexuality.
“The rejection of masturbation acquires its current form in the context of the social changes that produced the Enlightenment”
Although it was not just a religious issue. Records suggest that rejection of masturbation acquires its current form in the context of the social changes that produced the Enlightenment. Holbach, one of the thinkers of the most radical illustration, said that “decadent nations are filled with soleros“.
Then medicine arrived. Sometimes we forget that medicine is a normative discipline. It does not study life itself, but it solves problems. Attending to a certain conception of the life good more and more naturalized, yes. This explains both the inclusion and the exclusion of homosexuality in the catalog of psychiatric illnesses. The relationship between medicine and morals are never quite explicit. But twenty or thirty years after the book of Bekker’s pamphlet, Robert James wrote a medical monograph in which he explained that masturbation “produced the most deplorable and incurable disorders”. We already had all the wicks. In successive years Tissot, Rush, White or Kellogg reinforced over the following decades the idea that masturbation was the cause of great disorders.
The objective was to confine the sexual experiences in the couple’s area, punishing adultery and rejecting masturbation
In a certain way, as in a reissue of the tragedy of the commons, the imposed monogamy privatizes the keys and mechanisms of sexual pleasure and gives it to only one person: the objective was to confine the sexual experiences in the area of the couple with the adultery and rejecting masturbation.
Everything that goes against that privatization was corrosive to the social structure of the last three centuries. Masturbation thus became a revolutionary act. And, although the first serious studies on sexuality date back to the first half of the 20th century, it took a sexual revolution and a clear vindication that the personal is political so that the masturbatory stigma would disappear. Or it will begin to disappear.