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Female Autoerotism in Twentieth Century Sexology and Sex Research

Alsaoub, Nour (2015) Female Autoerotism in Twentieth Century Sexology and Sex Research. PhD thesis, University of York.

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In this thesis I argue that female masturbation is still in some ways seen as problematic even though it is no longer represented as a basis for shame and sin. Historians have shed light on the vicious campaign against masturbation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but little attention has been dedicated to the twentieth century, beyond overviews of how ideas changed so that masturbation was no longer, allegedly, condemned. Although I will begin with a consideration of attitudes towards female masturbation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, my main focus will be on the twentieth century through an in-depth analysis of the works of the prominent sexologists and sex researchers: Havelock Ellis, Freud, Kinsey, Masters and Johnson and Shere Hite. I address specific problems in their arguments regarding female sexuality in general and female autoerotism in particular. I contend that these influential figures participated in the great confusion we have about female masturbation today. At first it was thought that excessive or prolonged masturbation led to psychological or sexual problems. When later sexologists tried to present masturbation in a better light, it continued to be, for them, an inferior form of sexual practice. Even when female autoerotism is advocated, it is justified by claiming that it leads to better "real sex". Finally, through a reading of recent popular culture, my study explores how sex researchers' attitudes towards masturbation influenced our own, resulting in a paradox: it is still a secretive practice and yet can be celebrated in women's magazines. In concentrating on the twentieth century I seek to substantiate my argument that the problems we have with masturbation did not stop at the end of the nineteenth century. My thesis is an attempt at presenting female masturbation as neither a disease nor a cure. It is a step towards a better comprehension of a wide-spread, mostly pleasurable, practice while avoiding both condemnation and overenthusiasm.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Women's Studies (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.666621
Depositing User: Nour Alsaoub
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2015 15:56
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10037

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