Archives for posts with tag: Masturbation

As Rubin points out in Thinking Sex, there have been periods in our nation’s history that have been defined by the current sex/moral panics. These moral issues are deep rooted into families but reach into politics and have even become legal issues.  “Moral crusaders” are people that “when we live with the possibility of unthinkinable destruction,  are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality”(Rubin, 143).

This piece was really eye opening for me, because I hadn’t thought out how much of my life has been shaped and policied by the gorvnerment and other positions of power. In my anthropology of food class, we have read a lot by Michael Pollan. And after reading Rubin, I noticed that even our foods have been policied in many ways. Michael Pollan pointed this out on a list of “10 Crazy Science Experiments That End Up In Your Kitchen“.

And this is where I get to the breakfast cereal. Kellogg’s is a brand famous internationally, and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love a good bowl of fruit loops or frosted flakes. But our cereal has indeed been policied. Or at least that was Mr. Kellogg’s original intention. He ran  health spa and his patients ate only bland foods as part of a special treatment. According to Kellogg, their diet needed to be plain and simple, to resist tempations. It was a belief that spicy and rich foods would lead to dangerous behavoir, like masturbation. And everyone knows, masturbation leads to even worse things for humanity! Kellogg believed that masturbation was the stem of other evils.

So, by accident, when his wheat and grain diet for his patients baked too long, he ran it through a machine and it became flakes that were “palatable” with milk. This new food ended up on our shelves, influenced entirely by the fact that the blandness promoted a healthier sexual lifestyle as well as a life with less evil. His influence in his brand obviously reached into the homes of people without many of them knowing the original intention of the product. (Note: I’m not hating on Kellogg’s brand at all, and I am sure they no longer operate under the same belief system!)

Sex negativity comes from a religious background suggesting that sexual acts are sinful and the only exception to many objections to sex is conventional marriage. In this viewpoint, sex is “dangerous, destructive (and a) negative force”(Rubin,150). Religious institutions have reached into our politics and into our pantries, often unbeknownst to us, and have worked to shape our nation historically.


-Parisa Mansoori

In the lecture “Abnormal” Michel Foucault, when talking about the figure of the masturbator, says, “Almost no one knows what everyone does,” (59). This idea of shared ignorance about sexual practice which Foucault applies to the practice of masturbation, seems to me to be applicable in regards to a myriad of sexual behaviors. I am reminded of the impact of the publication of the Kinsey Reports in the late 1940s and early 1950s: before the debut of this document, many Americans had no idea what other Americans like themselves actually did when they were sexual. As Foucault implies in his lecture, masturbation is that thing that everyone does, but nobody talks about; this secrecy fosters a climate of guilt surrounding the unspeakable practice and prevents those partaking from truly enjoying the experience. Arguably, such was also the case with many other taboo sexual practices (oral sex, anal sex, homosexual contact of any kind, etc) before the publication of the Kinsey Reports (but also persisting to the present).
As can be seen from examining the Dear Dr. Kinsey Collection (a collection of personal letters addressed to Dr. Kinsey during the 1940’s and 1950’s), the cycle of secrecy, guilt, and subsequent sexual anxiety about behaviors persists when “no one knows what everyone does.” I had the wonderful chance to examine some of these personal letters, and one profound conclusion I came to was just how little most people knew about what was common and healthy sexually (not to mention how often “healthy” and “moral” wound up tied together). Many letters were from anxious writers in the 40s and 50s describing behaviors such as cunnilingus or fellatio (which are commonly accepted today) and asking whether they were going to develop a physical or moral disease as a result of their behavior. Insofar as behaviors which have no empirically proven physical detriments are blamed for unrelated health problems, the depiction of sex as immoral or unhealthy does no one any favors: when “no one knows what everyone does,” we all spend a lot of unnecessary energy feeling bad about what we like.