Barry Reay
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The body as amusement park
A quick history of masturbation
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In modern times, autoeroticism has been accepted as part of a normal, healthy sex life, promoted as a form of gay safe sex in an age of AIDS. It has represented female sexual liberation, and tended to be viewed with amusement rather than horror. Indeed sexual historians have written about the ‘mainstreaming of masturbation’. But its recent history is actually far more complex than this brief characterisation. Belief in the evils of the practice has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and a current obsession with the impact of online pornography (masturbation’s metonym), trends that are particularly marked in the US. Autoeroticism may have been mainstreamed but is still not totally accepted. People remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex. This chapter explores this fascinating history.

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Sex in the archives

Writing American sexual histories

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