Whacking off: a psychological history

The Insight Therapy blog has a fantastic dash through the psychological history of masturbation – looking at how self-pleasuring has been linked to everything from madness to blindness and has even inspired a type of biscuit [no, not that type].

Through the 19th century, the assault on “self-abuse” continued: Reverend Sylvester Graham invented the Graham crackers to curb sexual impulses. In the 1830s, Benjamin Rush, renowned physician and signer of the declaration of Independence, argued that masturbation caused tuberculosis, memory loss, and epilepsy. JH Kellogg, turn of the century medical writer and creator of breakfast cereal, believed signs of masturbation included acne, weak back, and convulsions. Noted 19th century physician and early sex research pioneer Richard von Krafft Ebing linked masturbation to homosexuality and other types of what he considered deviance and illnesses.

The piece makes the interesting point that that the practice is more common in men than women and has been linked to range of positive health outcomes, perhaps suggesting that we should be aiming to include masturbation in the drive to close the gender gap.

Link to Insight Therapy on ‘The Masturbation Gap’.


  1. Posted October 5, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Ha! I’ll never look at graham crackers the same way again. In fact, maybe I’ll go have some right now.

    The reason for masturbation is clear to me, but what are the psychological effects of being taught that polishing the wood will make you blind (aside from the obvious guilt)?

  2. cavall de quer
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t something due to the derivation of the word” – “man(u) stuprare”, to defile with the hand? (Oxford Etymological Dictionary).
    Obviously our cultural ancestors had a problem, too…..

  3. Posted October 5, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Self pleasuring has health risks? I see better and feel better aftwards! They obviously didn’t have pocket strokers or doc johnson products back then! They must approve of masturbation if they make the toys to do it!

  4. SPC
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Benjamin Rush wasn’t alive in the 1830’s, typo?

  5. Bill Michael
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Why has there been such a negative pre-occupation with masturbation by some individuals throughout history. Why would or does anyone care whether you self-pleasure or not. There is something very sick and twisted to this. Recently in Indonesia, two girls were beheaded by order of Islamic Clergy because they masturbated together.

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Posted on October 5, 2010 by JWS Sorry Christine O, but this is really interesting: A psychological History of masturbation… Radio: Last night’s blogtalk show is here. Not my best outing. I got upset again by the Tyler […]

  2. […] http://mindhacks.com/2010/10/05/whacking-off-a-psychological-history/   […]

  3. […] via mindhacks – Whacking off: a psychological history […]

  4. […] & Bodily Exhaustion from Onanism or Self-pollution’ from the days when self-diddling was widely assumed to be a cause of […]

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