My students asked for more masturbation & here is the resource. In student evaluation of the Anthropology of Sex course I taught last semester, several students indicated that future iterations of the course should include more discussion of masturbation. Somehow, over the course of teaching it three times, I’ve totally overlooked masturbation. Fortunately, my wife was kind enough to share a link to this article from Las Vegas Weekly regarding National Masturbation Month, which apparently is May. It references Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation by Thomas Lacquer, professor of history at UC-Berkeley. While it doesn’t appear to stretch back so far or across species enough to be contextualizing masturbation in an evolutionary history, this New York Times review does make it sound like a compelling read. It also interestingly suggests that masturbation is a reification of the Enlightenment that was probably a non-starter as an issue until the privacy of sexuality & genitalia became a preeminent religio-cultural concern.
May is National Masturbation Month
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I missed this comment previously. I will have to revisit my Alan Dundes again (I invoke him a lot when talking about the sexual content of folklore/cursing). It will go well with my discussion of big belt buckles in Texas & penis gourds in Papua New Guinea (they really like it when I pass around the one I borrowed from a friend, who got it from his mother-in-law). I’m not sure I would go the sublimated homoerotic route in my own analysis, since spending inordinate money & time to raise chickens to kill each other for the sake of male prestige jives perfectly with costly honest signaling theory (funny, I just also posted separately on both chickens & signaling theory). However, in the spirit of allowing the students to make their own decisions, I will be happy to share that as an interpretation & thank you for the source!
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Thinking about this more reminded me of a remarkable article by Alan Dundes, Gallus as Phallus: A Psychoanalytic Cross-Cultural Consideration of the Cockfight as Fowl Play. Dundes begins by pointing out that “the cockfight is one of the oldest, most documented and most widely distributed traditional sports known to man” (242) and his hypothesis is “that the cockfight is a thinly disguised symbolic homoerotic masturbatory phallic duel” (251). This may take you a bit further afield of your topic, but if Dundes is correct then there has been more symbolic thinking (if sublimated) about masturbation than some of the more European-centered texts indicate.
Whoops. Fixed now. Thanks, Jason!
Now those are some useful course evaluations. Your New York Times link seems to be going to Amazon, but interesting stuff!