J.F.W. Meagher, M.D., A Study of Masturbation and The Psychosexual Life (1936).

People back in the 30's sure were fascinated by masturbation - in the case if this author so much that he wrote an entire book about it. Don't be fooled by the title - nothing in this book rises to the level of a study - he just spouts his beliefs right off the top of his head. As is typical in books on sex from this time, the scariest part is that he was probably progressive for his time. By today's standards, though, he is a bit behind the curve.

Some of what he says makes sense. He rightly recognizes that education about sex is a good thing, that "sex instruction will not remove cravings, but if scientifically and ethically given, it can assist in self-control, and help to prevent neuroses. I doubt if anyone will deny that ignorance regarding sex has caused much unhappiness, and that it has prevented normal psychosocial development. ... Those who in youth have had sexuality portrayed as disagreeable, frightful, and humiliating cannot be expected to react naturally to it when older" p. 9, and that "parents who regard sex as unclean are not the proper individuals to teach children; nor can any adult who is embarrassed when sex questions are asked of him." p. 6.

He is also willing to admit that masturbation is universal in the young child and "practically universal in the male adolescent for a varying period of time - usually for a few years." p. 76-77. He admits that it does not cause imbecility or consumption and further states that "the fact is that if early masturbation produced all of the evil results ascribed to it, a large part of mankind would be in a bad way mentally and physically." P. 83. He even comes close to recognizing that the problems caused by masturbation are caused by guilt about it, rather than by the practice itself. p. 132. But he then concludes that the ability to masturbate without guilt is not something available to "intelligent youths of the highest moral type," but to those of "poorer moral fiber, e.g., morons" who "often show but few neurotic manifestations as a result of their indulgence in this habit." Intro to first edition at ix.

While he doesn't have any actual practical advice about how to "cure" masturbation, he has some good advice about what will not work, including the offer of illicit intercourse, p. 71, punitive measures, which "often have quite the opposite effect," p94, surgery, and massage of the prostate, p. 123.

These glimmers of sense, however, are drowned out by endless nonsense about the personality defects caused by the practice of masturbation. With respect to adolescents he says that it is associated with delinquency, saying that "Healy has shown that masturbation is a factor in 10 per cent of the delinquencies occurring in adolescence, -- that in such individuals there is a breaking down of the moral stamina." p. 83 He further states that girls who masturbate are more likely to be homosexual as it prolongs their fantasies of being a boy. p. 95. It is also blamed for making girls bold and egotistical instead of properly timid, while "the youth who persists in this form of selfishness may later become deceitful, jealous, cruel and obstinate." p. 94.

What he has to say about adults who masturbate is even worse. In adults, he says "the habit is always deleterious [showing] a psychosexual maldevelopment, or a regressive phenomenon." p.139 He further states that "Among adults the habit is most common in seclusive, shut-in types who have few or not personal or social outlets, and particularly for those whose cravings for social esteem are slight. Many in this class have a propensity for justifying all their acts, no matter how selfish." p. 77. And that, when persisted in by adults, masturbation "shows a failure of psychosexual development. It is a bad way to meet sex cravings. It increases his selfishness, and interferes with his social progress. And it is hardly necessary to say that if kept up, it will destroy healthy marriage life." p. 84.

Thus, "Where the habit has become uncontrollable, it may lay the foundation for a wretched personality. It is because of the fact that when masturbation represents the infantile methods of erotic gratification, that persistence in it will cause a hindrance to adult psychosexual development. And naturally normal socialization of the individual also becomes difficult, for he eventually comes to feel that he has lost the appreciation of his fellow men. So the habit tends towards exclusiveness, and in some cases to a narcissistic fixation on self. Among asocial types, cultural repressions are weak, and so masturbation is common." p. 92. And "Certain traits and trends may be caused by, or if present, accetuated by the habit, e.g. seclusiveness, secretiveness, laziness, abnormal timidity, scrupulousness, a lack of altruism, resentment, and hostile attitudes towards life." p.93. Furthermore, "Disinclination for effort, poor attention and concentration, dullness and inefficient work, fatigue and even delinquency may result from excessive masturbation." p.128. Feeling enough like a worm yet? No wonder that he says that "no healthy ethical adult could possibly indulge in habitual masturbation without suffering mental distress and experiencing a lowering of his self-respect." p 105.

While the primary subject of the book is masturbation, he has some pearls of wisdom about other subjects. For example he says that "Numerous studies show that the majority of men and women copulate imperfectly. This is in part due to conflicts which exist between man and woman because of failure to develop complete masculinity or femininity." That is, to reach the "ultimate healthy sexual goal" of becoming a fully developed heterosexual man or woman. pp 39-40. He further states that homosexuality is the last stage of psychosexual development, "[f]or an individual can achieve health only when the ever present homosexual component becomes sublimated. The adult individual whose homosexual component desires erotic gratification at physical levels is one whose love life is immature. The consequence is that he or she rarely develops a healthy personality." pp 57-58.

And, for those of you who are gluttons for the ridiculous and are still with me, he further says that "Most extramarital coitus is really masturbatory in character, and in no way resembles coitus in marriage." pp. 132-133. And that "The primary function of the female is to beget and rear children and build or make worthy the nest or home." p. 41.