The Big Book of Masturbation: From Angst to Zeal. Martha Cornog, San Francisco, CA, Down There Press, 2003. 360 pp. $22.00

The Big Book of Masturbation: From Angst to Zeal. Martha Cornog, San Francisco, CA, Down There... Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 3/4, February 2005 ( 2005) DOI: 10.1007/s11199-005-1304-6 Book Review The Big Book of Masturbation: From Angst to Zeal. with which its pathogenic powers have been pro- Martha Cornog, San Francisco, CA, Down pounded in the past” (p. 234). Two original contribu- There Press, 2003. 360 pp. $22.00. tions examine contemporary Western conflicts over the morality of adult masturbation. These papers, by Martha Cornog’s panoramic view of masturba- Alan Soble and Harold Ivan Smith, respectfully bal- tion won’t satisfy an interest in prurience, empiri- ance liberal and conservative arguments. cism, or sexual enhancement. Cornog’s purpose is Although the broad focus means academic to provide “a kaleidoscopic picture of masturbation readers will find the chapter summarizing their own through different disciplines” (p. xvii). field familiar (though accurate), the multidisciplinary The author crosses historical, cultural, and aca- structure provides plenty of fresh, useful perspec- demic lines to illustrate how “masturbation has been tives. The psychological perspective seemed flat regarded so negatively and also so positively” (p. compared to philosophy’s debate about whether xv). The author is a librarian, and the breadth sexuality is ideally unitary (where desire is about the of her research impresses, but she does not at- physical sensations) or binary (where desire is about tempt to answer any particular question. Thus, the a relationship). A survey of more than 70 societies’ book reads more like an encyclopedia. Cornog an- views of masturbation convinced this reader that be- thologizes writers on masturbation from predictable liefs are thoroughly local. For example, one Oceanic fields (medicine, psychology, sexology, and religion) people endorse masturbation for children but not as well as more surprising ones (zoology, anthro- for adults, whereas a neighboring people believe pology, evolution, law, and philosophy). She adds the opposite. The differences between men’s and chapters about slang, fiction, and humor, which are women’s masturbatory practices are visible across playful contrasts to the serious scholarship on solo cultures, even those relatively accepting of tine sex. practice. Men masturbate at significantly higher rates For the reader who wants to sample civilization’s than women do, though men’s practice has always views on this common yet secret pleasure, the book is been more strongly criticized by society (originating absorbing. Cornog summarizes what the Dalai Lama with the belief that masturbation would abort the says about masturbation, how porcupines manage it, man’s unborn children). and whether physicians believe one can overdo it. Although Cornog answers no particular ques- The roots of medical horror at masturbation are ex- tion about this provocative subject, this book suits plained (e.g., physicians confused the symptoms of any readers who wish to expand their knowledge STDS with the effects of autoeroticism). Cornog in- base or to possess a readable secondary source. cludes, too, Thomas Szasz’s argument that in the “therapeutic power of masturbation” is not differ- Nina Williams, PhD ent than “the same smug professional conviction Robert Wood Johnson Medical School 267 0360-0025/05/0200-0267/0 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. Sex Roles Springer Journals

The Big Book of Masturbation: From Angst to Zeal. Martha Cornog, San Francisco, CA, Down There Press, 2003. 360 pp. $22.00

Sex Roles , Volume 52 (4) – Jan 1, 2005
1 page

Loading next page...
1 Page
Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers
Copyright © 2005 by Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.
Psychology; Gender Studies; Sociology, general; Medicine/Public Health, general
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.

DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Unlimited reading

Read as many articles as you need. Full articles with original layout, charts and figures. Read online, from anywhere.

Stay up to date

Keep up with your field with Personalized Recommendations and Follow Journals to get automatic updates.

Organize your research

It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

Monthly Plan

  • Read unlimited articles
  • Personalized recommendations
  • No expiration
  • Print 20 pages per month
  • 20% off on PDF purchases
  • Organize your research
  • Get updates on your journals and topic searches


Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial

Best Deal — 39% off

Annual Plan

  • All the features of the Professional Plan, but for 39% off!
  • Billed annually
  • No expiration
  • For the normal price of 10 articles elsewhere, you get one full year of unlimited access to articles.



billed annually
Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial