At Puissant, we are passionate about sexual well-being and in particular female masturbation. We defend onanism (or solitary pleasure) that is uninhibited, curious, joyful and full of power . For this week's article, we decided to go back in time to better understand the still current stigma around female masturbation. Who made the cloak of shame and guilt that dresses solo enjoyment? This is what we are going to try to discover through this brief overview of the history of female masturbation.
In ancient times...
It is difficult to find written traces describing female masturbation before the Middle Ages. Some sources speak of a tolerated practice while others prefer not to comment. However, there is a particular concern for “wide” clitoris . They were synonymous with women with a devouring and uncontrollable sexual appetite .
As early as the 1st century BC, the Methodist physician Soranos of Ephesus offered us practical advice on how to reduce the size of this organ which must remain discreet. This "deformation" could therefore be resolved by grasping the clitoris with pliers and cutting off the tip with a scalpel. The erection of the clitoris by blood flow was then not known. When it was deemed too visible, some ancient physicians treated it as a malformation to be corrected.
Although relegated to the past of our Western medical history, the removal of the clitoris remains a reality in other regions of the world. Since its foundation, Puissant has been a partner of the association Les Orchidées Rouges , which actively fights against female circumcision. 💮
History of female masturbation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
It was in the Middle Ages that religion became more involved , in particular by sharing the story of the crime of Onan . A secondary biblical character, Onan was remarried to his sister-in-law on the death of his older brother. He refuses and destroys his seed by masturbation. Following this act, YHWH punishes him with death.
Although the reasons for Onan's execution are not detailed in the sacred texts, interpretations assume magical practices or else unbridled sexuality that is not aimed at procreation . The character also gave his name to onanism, a term from the Roman Catholic Church to designate masturbation.
Sexuality was seen as a necessary evil existing only for reproduction. Sexual desire was described as not depending exclusively on human goodwill. It was highly recommended not to succumb to temptation and couples had to indulge in the practice to perpetuate the breed. Unsurprisingly, masturbation was therefore a No-Go Zone. 🛑 Many books then listed the moral codes to adopt and a majority of chapters were intended for the sins of masturbation and homosexuality.
While the Church recommended one report per year , masturbation was entirely outlawed. It was described as an act of selfish sin .
Although the inquisition, witch hunts and the image of lustful women ready to unite sexually with Satan are often linked, we have not found enough reliable sources on the subject. The Maleus Maleficarum or Hammer of the Witches (Hexehammer) frequently cited as a reference work in this context benefits from very few studies of the text. What we do know is that the book accuses women more than men of witchcraft, denouncing the Sabbaths and sexual practices with incubi.
Masturbation is not the precise cause of the persecutions, but the climate announces the premises of strong sexual repression.
The sin of self-pollution: Onania
Published between 1712 and 1716 by an unknown author, the English pamphlet Onania: or, the heinous sin of self-pollution had a phenomenal success in the 18th century. Playing on dubious sensationalism , Onania goes viral by describing the devastating health effects of masturbation.
Blindness, epilepsy, mental disorders, infertility and premature death, the document anchors once and for all the popular superstitions that have been around for centuries. For the first time, men and women find themselves on an equal footing. The affectations illustrated in the manual show young men and girls reduced to premature aging and physical decrepitude from touching themselves.
At that time, masturbation was also a matter of morality . Kant also considered it a violation of the moral law . Our national Jean-Jacques Rousseau speaks of mental rape to describe it and blames the corrupt influences of society in his Confessions. For them, it was far worse than suicide, because it defiled the pure spirit of Enlightenment. Okay... 🙄
Victorian dark times
You thought we had reached the worst in terms of repressing solo fun? Nay!
The Victorian era, well known for its extreme conservatism, offered us an anthology of restrictions . The “ solitary vice ” is the cause of all moral and physical evils. Men are the main targets of doctors. They are offered many cures such as ointments, spiked rings, pants without flys or even this curious electric object.
For a handful of women, onanism was punished with clitoridectomies . Prescriptions for an icy douche or an equally cold water bath were more common. Other "cures" included a special diet , exercise , and fresh air . Besides, did you know that the tradition of daily washing is actually inherited from this era?
This vision of female masturbation as an unhealthy practice for body and mind has infiltrated psychiatry. Freud is especially thanked for his ingenious parallels between psychological immaturity and clitoral orgasm .
In parallel, the vibrator was invented as an antidote to hysteria . No search for enjoyment, but once again to treat women. Basically, Coco 's ancestors were much less fun. 👎
The sexual revolution
The sexual revolution put pleasure back at the center of life and attitudes towards masturbation began to mutate. 👏
In 1992, the infamous "Master of My Domain" episode of Seinfeld broke the taboo against talking about masturbation on TV. But two years later, US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was fired for saying young people should be taught about masturbation as safe sex.
Studies show that women still associate masturbation with guilt and shame . Today, awareness is evolving and practices continue to free themselves, but there is still a long way to go to get rid of this stigma around female pleasure.
The history of female masturbation closely follows that of mores and sexuality. Morality and health have intertwined over the centuries to approach a subject that concerns intimacy , but also society . A healthy practice for the body and the mind, solo enjoyment is a way to have fun, explore your limits and really get to know yourself . ❤️