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Gender & Sexuality

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation

Thomas W. Laqueur

Details

504 pp

Published: September 2004

6 x 9

Paperback

$27.95, £22.95

ISBN: 9781890951337

“Laqueur’s courageous cultural history (and it took courage, even now, to write this book) makes it abundantly clear why for Proust — and for ourselves — the celebration of the imagination has to include a place for solitary sex.” —New York Review of Books

“Around 1700, masturbation morphed from a minor sociospiritual transgression into a moral-medical horror. Laqueur explains why — better and certainly more exhaustively than previous scholars. As centralized monarchs and the church lost power and the individual assumed new importance in civil society, masturbation was revisioned as the most selfish, antisocial, and dangerous perversion of individualism. Much later, Freud remade masturbation into a temporary, youthful way station for individual socialization. Then after the 1960s, feminism and gay liberation helped engineer a third makeover of masturbation as fundamental for socialized individuals of any age. All three visions coexist uneasily today. Laqueur’s penetrating analysis will fascinate social historians and the intellectual public.” —Library Journal

“A compendious and witty analysis of the subject.” –Los Angeles Times

“An irrefutably seminal book ... [written] in an elegant, almost mesmerizing prose.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Laqueur’s brilliant study takes this topic in sexual studies . . . and subjects it to the best sort of contemporary historical scholarship.” — The Times Higher Education Supplement