"Sin of Onan": The Evolution of the Views on Masturbation in Modern Time
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history of sexuality
“medicalization” of society

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Sokolov, A. (2020). "Sin of Onan": The Evolution of the Views on Masturbation in Modern Time. Corpus Mundi, 1(1), 82-110. https://doi.org/10.46539/cmj.v1i1.6


History of sexuality is one of the most dynamically developing trends in contemporary historiography. Cultural history of masturbation reflects evolution of ideas about this part of human sexuality. This article uses constructivist methodology and regards masturbation as cultural construct originated from mental dominants of time and society. In conditions of “medicalization” of modern society (the expression of M. Foucault) the masturbation was looked upon as a pathology and a dangerous social vice. The author of the article employs a chronological approach examining the evolution of attitudes to masturbation. In the time of Renaissance and in the XVII century masturbation wasn’t considered a great sin, though many authors condemned it. In the XVIII century, the period of relative tolerance was over - masturbation became to be regarded as a disease that needed treatment, even surgical interference in some cases, as object of “new psychiatry”. It was at the same time exposed to moral condemnation and was put under strict pedagogical control. The expressed repressiveness continued for many decades, and only on the turn of XIX century cautious doubts in attribution of masturbation to diseases appeared. “Rehabilitation” of masturbation happened only in the middle of the XX century under influence of social factors and formation of consuming society, as well as the new ideas in sexology. The attitude to masturbation, as to other sexual practices depends on raising and decreasing of the level of tolerance in society.

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