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October 19, 1963

Masturbation and Clitoridectomy: A Nineteenth-Century View

Author Affiliations


From the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh.

JAMA. 1963;186(3):246-248. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.63710030028012

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, which saw the industrial revolution merge into the technological revolution and witnessed profound developments in the sciences and social sciences, was one of many contradictions. Precisely why, in the midst of this cultural upheaval, the century should have produced its own peculiar attitude towards sex is difficult to say. Whatever the reason, among English-speaking peoples the name of the Victorian Age has become synonymous with prudery. Sexual desires, if properly controlled, were acceptable in the male as necessary for procreation, but it was unthinkable that any decent woman should derive pleasure from sex. A physician writing in a New Orleans medical journal in 1883 declared that he did not believe that one bride in a hundred accepted matrimony from any desire for sexual gratification. He conceded, however, that some of the lower elements might admit to wanting sexual gratification. The modest woman, he concluded, submitted to her

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