27 November 2014

Book Review: With the Hand

Mels van Driel is a urologist and sexologist attached to the University Medical Centre in Groningen. He also wrote Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis.

There are so many things that can be said about this book. For one, van Driel gives a fairly comprehensive account of the history of hte idea of masturbation in Western civilization.

One long standing confusion I had was why nineteenth century moralizers referred to masturbation as onanism. Onan was the Hebrew in the Old Testament that refused to impregnate the widow of his older brother -- which was a custom in ancient Israel, apparently. They would have sex, but he's pull out before he'd ejaculate. I think the Latin is "coitus interruptus". Anyways, the sin of ancient Israel was that he would "spill his seed" and that would make in ritually impure for a day. The Catholic Church has used this story to justify its opposition to contraception. After reading the discussion on it, I think I understand how masturbation got the American medical name "onanism."

He also discusses the literature regarding masturbation and adolescence. Fascinating discussion. I didn't enjoy the literature section and I thought in someways the discussion regarding how patriarchal customs tend to oppress women. How is it possible that many women are not familiar with their genital areas and how to pleasure themselves?

The version I read was a 255 page cloth published by Reaktion Books on April 15, 2012. ISBN: 978-1861899194. Lowest price seems to be abebooks.com and amazon.com

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