ch11

Psychology in Action

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dispensing medical advice stated that masturbation leads to spermatorrhea (seminal weakness), impotence, softening of the brain, and insanity. This particular author considered himself a specialist in the treatment of sexual disorders, mainly spermatorrhea, and he included 12 pages of testimony from satisfied patients who had been cured. Another investigator, Krafft-Ebing, said that masturbation represents coarse, animal instincts, and if practiced, weakens the desire for the opposite sex. Freud, of course, is given credit for having opened up the whole area of sexual desire, especially in his recognition of sexual drives in children. However, he did not see sexual behavior as a valuable part of human life. As Szasz puts it, Freud felt that normal heterosexual activity leads to unwanted babies; abnormal and perverse acts lead to hysteria in women and neurasthenia in men; and sex with prostitutes leads to syphilis. Szasz interprets this to mean that Freud thought sex was more trouble than it was worth. Masturbation was a matter of special concern to psychoanalysis at the time and there were 13 meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society between 1908 and 1912 to discuss the problem of masturbation neurosis. (Neurosis was a general term for the category of anxiety disorders; more precisely, the subcategory most often implicated was neurasthenia.) Freud declared masturbation an infantile type of sexual activity and believed that it might cause organic injury (which part of the body would be injured was not designated). Freud, noted for his intuitive ability to perceive the true meaning of behavior (symbolic interpretation), noted that many other acts were symbolic behaviors for the actual act of masturbation. For example, in one case history of a young man who squeezed the pimples on his face, Freud pointed out that this behavior was a symbolic substitute for masturbation. The skin Instructor's Resource Guide                                Chapter 11                                       Page  85                                                                      
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depression created by squeezing out the blackhead was equivalent to the female genitalia, thereby providing the man with the punishment (castration) for forbidden masturbation. Rituals, compulsions, and obsessions were interpreted similarly. Karl Menninger, one of the most influential American psychiatrists of the post-Freudian era, continued to prescribe masturbation. He felt it was inevitable that guilt feelings would accompany the practice. In a more recent attack (1973) with a different twist, a psychiatrist denigrated the practice of women using running water to induce sexual excitement by declaring it a practice that results from unconscious conflicts.
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  • Human Sexuality, Sexual intercourse, Sexual arousal, Orgasm

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