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Tausk, V. (1951). On Masturbation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 6:61-79.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 6:61-79

On Masturbation

Victor Tausk, M.D.

The elements which are essential for a presentation of masturbation may be summarized in the following outline:

1. The subjects of masturbation

2. The origins of masturbation

3. Aim and effects of masturbation

a. the significance of masturbation for the individual and society

b. under which conditions does masturbation become harmful?

This outline might create the impression that masturbation could be clearly and unequivocally presented and explained as a well-defined phenomenon occurring in isolation. This is not possible, however. As a special phenomenon in man's sexual life, masturbation—which in every case is representative of the subject's entire sexual attitude—has as many relations to all manifestations of life as sexuality itself. It may be regarded, right from the start, as an illusory undertaking if anybody should venture to present the significance of sexuality in all its ramifications for life in general.

As a partial manifestation of sexual life, masturbation appears to the superficial observer as a special form of activity of the sexual instincts which results in a self-gratification and a discharge of sexual excitation without the use of any object other than one's own body. The conception of masturbation which is based on this popular definition proves to be inadequate, however, and does not sufficiently describe the real situation, not even from a purely empirical point of view. In the first place masturbation is practiced as often with the use of outside objects of all sort as without them. Inanimate as well as animate objects, animals as well as human beings of both sexes, are used in masturbatory activities, and particularly human beings are often used in such a way that no external criterion can be applied to determine whether a masturbatory act or a full-fledged sexual act, which unconditionally presupposes the participation of a partner, is practiced.

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