The touching or other stimulation of one’s own genitals or other erogenous zones for sexual purposes, masturbation has a long and complex history as a social, moral, and medical problem. Denigrated as a sign of either immorality or illness, masturbation has generally been perceived as a manifestation of cultural anxieties, rather than a “normal” or “natural” sexual behavior, with self‐pleasure considered more morally and physically dangerous for women than men. Despite twentieth‐century academic researchers’ deconstruction of dominant medical and psychoanalytic perspectives that viewed masturbation as non‐normative and pathological, and the subsequent adoption of self‐stimulation as a personal and political act of liberation by US social movements, masturbation remains a sensitive and controversial topic in mainstream Western culture and discourse today.
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