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Masturbation: 100 years ago and now.

Auto-Eroticism: A Study of Onamism and Neurosis neurosis, in psychiatry, a broad category of psychological disturbance, encompassing various mild forms of mental disorder. Until fairly recently, the term neurosis was broadly employed in contrast with psychosis, which denoted much more severe, debilitating mental , by Wilhelm Stekel Wilhelm Stekel (March 18, 1868 – June 25, 1940) was an Austrian physician and psychologist, who became one of Sigmund Freud's earliest followers, a self-described apostle.[1] He later had a falling-out with Freud. . Reprinted. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Kegan Paul, 2004, 298 pp., $144.50 (cloth).

Masturbation, after being somewhat neglected academically, became popular recently, with at least three major books published on the topic in 2003 (Bockting & Coleman, 2003; Cornog, 2003; Laquer, 2003). Obviously Kegan Paul saw a potential market and reprinted the 1950 Grove Press translation of a classical study by Wilhelm Stekel (1858-1940). The translation was by James S. Van Teslaar, but this is not mentioned in the current printing, although the original introduction and forward by Emil A. Gutheil and Fredric Wertham are preserved. Unfortunately the publisher charges a king's ransom for the book, obviously aiming at libraries which lack a copy rather than the general reading public who will find the book available at much cheaper prices on the Internet. Still, Stekel's work is important.

Stekel was a part of the Vienna psychoanalytic circle organized by Sigmund Freud, and Stekel participated in the original discussion the group had on onanism onanism /onan·ism/ (o´nah-nizm)
1. coitus interruptus.

2. masturbation.

1. See coitus interruptus.

2. Masturbation.
 in 1910. This first discussion lasted for three evenings and contained so much disagreement that they dared not publish their proceedings. The group returned to the subject two years later and, although they agreed that masturbation was representative of the conflict between instinct and repression, they also agreed that the topic was quite inexhaustible.

Almost alone among the psychoanalytic group, Stekel argued that, if masturbation was entirely suppressed, the number of sexual misdeeds would increase to an immeasurable extent. He held that all sorts of forbidden yearnings that might have led to rape or pederasty The criminal offense of unnatural copulation between men.

The term pederasty is usually defined as anal intercourse of a man with a boy. Pederasty is a form of Sodomy.
 found a healthy outlet in masturbation. In Stekel's view, masturbation was entirely harmless or even benign, a position with which Freud disagreed.

Because Stekel believed that there would be negative consequences to society if masturbation was eliminated, he was regarded as the odd man out among his contemporaries. Stekel's reputation among them was not very high. Ernest Jones

For other people named Ernest Jones, see Ernest Jones (disambiguation).

Alfred Ernest Jones (January 1, 1879 – February 11, 1958) Welsh neurologist, psychoanalyst and Sigmund Freud’s official biographer.
 held that Stekel wrote with inaccuracy in·ac·cu·ra·cy  
n. pl. in·ac·cu·ra·cies
1. The quality or condition of being inaccurate.

2. An instance of being inaccurate; an error.
 and bad taste of the worst kind of journalist, and had an "irresponsible attitude toward truth."

In spite of the opposition, Stekel persevered. In his book Stekel examined and illustrated with case studies the relationship of masturbation with neurosis, unconscious or cryptic manifestations of masturbation, the psychogenesis psychogenesis /psy·cho·gen·e·sis/ (-jen´i-sis)
1. mental development.

2. production of a symptom or illness by psychic factors.

 of guilty conscience Noun 1. guilty conscience - remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense
guilt feelings, guilt trip, guilt

compunction, remorse, self-reproach - a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)
, and the relationship between masturbation and religion. Stekel believed that everyone masturbates, although it might not always be conscious, that masturbation is not the cause of neurosis, that it owes it psychic significance to the accompanying specific fantasies, and that when and if masturbation is given up, the will to live is itself disturbed in many cases.

Stekel even went so far as to state that the mental and physical dangers of masturbation exist only in the imagination of ignorant physicians. He believed that the higher the cultural ethical requirements of society become and the more refined our love life grows, the greater the need for masturbation. Stekel was extremely controversial in his time, and perhaps the chief justification for republishing his work is to show its pertinence to the continuing public debate on sexual issues. This is a significant tribute to a person who wrote nearly one hundred years ago, but it does not speak well for society's ability to deal effectively with sexual issues that have troubled it throughout much of history.


Bockting, W., & Coleman, E. (2003). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Cornog, M. (2003). The big book of masturbation. San Francisco: Down There Press.

Laquer, T. (2003). Solitary sex solitary sex A sexual act by a single person, usually private, often understood to mean masturbation. Cf Consensual sex. : A cultural history of masturbation. New York: Zone Books.

Reviewed by Vern L. Bullough, Ph.D., D.Sci, R.N., State University of New York (body) State University of New York - (SUNY) The public university system of New York State, USA, with campuses throughout the state.  Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Home: 3304 West Sierra Drive, Westlake Village, CA 91362. e-mail:
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Author:Bullough, Vern L.
Publication:The Journal of Sex Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
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