Onanism and Sexual Abuse: A History of Two Obsessions

by Agustín Malón Marco

Yearbook of Sexology (Anuario de Sexologia) AEPS 2001, No.7, pp. 75-90

A truly comprehensive sociological approach to the problem of child sexual abuse requires a historical review of these phenomena in order to situate them within the overall sexuality so characteristic of the western world, as referred to by Foucault. This historical investigation reviews the anti-masturbatory campaigns typical of child discourse from the 17th and 18th centuries. The aim of the present article is to give a brief comparative outline in which these two preoccupations, masturbation and sexual abuse, are related in some of their most significant characteristics. These parallels are surprisingly fruitful and include their invisible and universal nature and the dramatization of their effects together with the way these interact. The objective is not so much to create a relationship between the two realities as to reveal in a critical manner some of the pitfalls which have converted modern discourse on abuse into something very similar to the form of that other obsession. This similarity materializes particularly in the mechanisms proposed in order to fight against this new object of social preoccupation. Finally it is suggested that it is productive to seek to understand this current concern historically and sociologically, as other authors have done with the other obsession, rather than seeing it as the logical reaction to reasonable preoccupation for victims of abuse.

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An expanded version of this article was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior and is also available on the author's website.

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