1st Edition

Solitary Pleasures The Historical, Literary and Artistic Discourses of Autoeroticism

Edited By Paula Bennett, Vernon Rosario Copyright 1996
    296 Pages
    by Routledge

    296 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Solitary Pleasures is the first anthology to address masturbation, exploring both the history and artistic representation of autoeroticism. Masturbation today enjoys a highly equivocal and contradictory status among cultural discourses relating to sexuality. On the one hand, it is the subject of much popular treatment, especially in sexual self-help books, advice columns, and in pop culture--for example, Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performance, a recent Roseanne episode, and David Russell's movie Spanking the Monkey. On the other hand, masturbation is still a taboo subject for most people in everyday conversation. Perhaps more surprising, it has been largely dismissed by academics as a trivial, humorous topic and the "history of a delusion."

    It was not until the eighteenth century that "onanism" was portrayed as a morbid act of epidemic proportions that produced pox, hair loss, blindness, insanity, impotence and a horrible. Its prevention and treatment warranted diverse and often cruel measures: surveillance, diets, drugs, corsets, electrical alarms, urethral cauterization, clitoridectomy, and labial sewing. This literature's apocalyptic warnings about the personal and social morbidity of "pollution-by-the-hand" are largely unknown to most people today, but the ghostly echoes of these admonitions still inform and preserve the present taboo of the subject.

    Why did this apparently innocuous activity become so overpoweringly stigmatized? Why was the eradication of masturbation one of the most important goals of 19th century public hygiene? Why, even after the "sexual revolution," is masturbation still shrouded in shame?

    Acknowledgments/Paula Bennett £sf Vernon A. Rosario II, M.D. -- Introduction: The Politics of Solitary Pleasures/1. Laura Weigert -- Autonomy as Deviance: Sixteenth-Century Images of Witches and Prostitutes/2. Kelly Dennis -- Playing with Herself: Feminine Sexuality and Aesthetic Indifference/3. Roy Porter -- Forbidden Pleasures: Enlightenment Literature of Sexual Advice/4. Vernon A . Rosario II, M.D. -- Phantastical Pollutions: The Public Threat of Private Vice in France/5. Eve Kosofsky Sedgw ick -- Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl/6. Thomas W. Laqueur -- The Social Evil, the Solitary Vice, and Pouring Tea/7. Christopher Looby -- “The Roots of the Orchis, the Iuli of Chestnuts”: The Odor of Male Solitude/8. Paula Bennett -- “Pomegranate-Flowers”: The Phantasmic Productions of Late-Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Women Poets/9. Lawrence R. Schehr -- Fragments of a Poetics: Bonnetain and Roth/10. Roger Celestin -- Can Robinson Crusoe Find True Happiness (Alone)? BeVond the Genitals and 1 liston* on the Island of Hope/11. EarlJackson Jr. -- Coming in Handy: The J/O Spectacle and the Gay Male Subject in .Almodovar -- Notes on Contributors -- Index.


    Paula Bennett is Associate Professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Vernon A. Rosario II is Instructor in the History of Science at Harvard College, and an M.D. candidate at Harvard Medical School.

    "...a queer theory paean to masturbation... Joycelyn ELders would approve." -- OUT
    "Obviously auteroticism deserves to finally be seriously examined in today's climate of sex-related danger, and that end is accomplished very well in this text." -- Gay Chicago Magazine
    "The first anthology...that deals extensively with masturbation, Solitary Pleasures keeps Routledge on the publishing cutting edge of contemporary avant garde social and cultural theory." -- The San Diego Review