"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?
"Solitary Pleasures" is the first anthology to take masturbation seriously, as seriously as did those who subjected people to unusual physical and mental torture to curtail the "vicious pleasures of solitude." The volume includes work by scholars in history, literary studies, art history and cultural studies analyzing representations of autoeroticism from the 16th century to the present. Essays study the role of masturbation and sexual fantasy in the production and consumption of film, poetry, art and the novel, and suggests links between auto-eroticism, imaginative production, and sexual orientation. "Solitary Pleasures" establishes masturbation and related issues of sexual fantasy and sexual autonomy as subjects of import for cultural history, psychology, women's studies and the history of literature and the arts.
..."a queer theory paean to masturbation... Joycelyn ELders would approve.."
"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