Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation (Zone Books)

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9781890951337: Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation (Zone Books)
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A historical account of masturbation as a moral issue and cultural taboo. At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract Onania in about 1722. Masturbation is a creation of the Enlightenment, of some of its most important figures, and of the most profound changes it unleashed. It is modern. It worried at first not conservatives, but progressives. It was the first truly democratic sexuality that could be of ethical interest for women as much as for men, for boys and girls as much as for their elders. The book's range is vast. It begins with the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible and ends with third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the Web. It explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin-or the perfect instance-of the great virtues of modern humanity and commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire.

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Review:

As a work of scholarly research... Professor Laqueur's hefty tome is without equal.

--Alexander Waugh, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

[Solitary Sex ] will, it almost goes without saying, become the standard work on the subject.

--James Delingpole, The Spectator

Laqueur is an impeccable historian of ideas... he writes in an elegant, almost mesmerizing prose.

--Davenport-Hines, TLS

Laqueur is persuasive. An engaging writer.

--New Yorker

This is no cute 'n' frothy pop-cultural round-up: it's a very scholarly work.

--T. Glyde, Time Out

Modern masturbation--and this is Laqueur's brilliant point--was the creature of the Enlightenment.... 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.

--Stephen Greenblatt, New York Review of Books

[Thomas Laqueur's] writing is free from embarrassment and needless jargon (though it does not shy away from complex formulations of manual sex's complexes)...it should be a big hit on campus.

--Publishers Weekly

A compendious and witty analysis of the subject.

--Jenny Diski, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Laqueur's brilliant study takes this topic in sexual studies--the rise and fall of masturbation as a sexual pathology--and subjects it to the best sort of contemporary historical scholarship, combining historical detective work and detailed explication with a long view.

--Jeffrey Weeks, Times Higher Education Supplement

A superb new volume... it's a helluva ride.

--Emma Tom, Weekend Australian

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9781890951320: Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation (Zone Books)

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ISBN 10:  1890951323 ISBN 13:  9781890951320
Publisher: MIT Press, 2003
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Book Description ZONE BOOKS, United States, 2004. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed. Language: English. Brand new Book. A historical account of masturbation as a moral issue and cultural taboo.At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract Onania in about 1722. Masturbation is a creation of the Enlightenment, of some of its most important figures, and of the most profound changes it unleashed. It is modern. It worried at first not conservatives, but progressives. It was the first truly democratic sexuality that could be of ethical interest for women as much as for men, for boys and girls as much as for their elders.The book's range is vast. It begins with the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible and ends with third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the Web. It explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin-or the perfect instance-of the great virtues of modern humanity and commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire. Seller Inventory # AAC9781890951337

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