[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
February 24, 1984

Onan's Act

Author Affiliations

Monroe, NC

JAMA. 1984;251(8):1026. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340320016008

To the Editor.—  Jorizzo et al1 described an eczematous eruption of the penis attributable to increased frequency of masturbation. They called the condition frictional dermatitis of Onan.In Genesis, Onan, son of Judah, failed to perform the duty of the levirate marriage, an ancient custom by which the brother-in-law must marry the childless widow. The eldest son of such a marriage would inherit the name and birthright of the deceased brother. "And it came to pass when [Onan] went in unto his brother's wife that he spilled [his semen] on the ground lest he should give seed to his brother" (Genesis 38:9). The Hebrew text implies that Onan practiced coitus interruptus, not masturbation.A nosological entity may be associated with the name of the physician who described it (Porokeratosis of Mibelli) or, less commonly, with a patient afflicted by it (Hartnup disease). Although he was slain by the Lord for