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Book reviews for "Laqueur,_Thomas_Walter" sorted by average review score:

Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud
Published in Hardcover by Harvard Univ Pr (1990)
Author: Thomas Walter Laqueur
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This book is absolutely fascinating. I recently wrote a paper on gender anatomy in the 18th and 19th century, and this book was my main resource. Laqueur has a clear and well written style as he describes the different theories on gender and sex throughout the ages and the rammifications of these theories in terms of culture and interpersonal relationships.

Foucault 101
An excellent book laying and discussing the basics of gender creation in western culture. This book borrows heavily from "The History of Sexuality" by Michel Foucault. This book very explictly forms a general hypothesis of gender and doesn't fail to back it up with extreme detail, sometimes "ad nauseum". Overall a good read, though dense.

Solitary Sex: A History of Masturbation
Published in Paperback by Zone Books (2003)
Author: Thomas Walter Laqueur
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Only the Lonely?
If you can have sex by yourself, and you're not either procreating, or making money at trying to arrest or rechannel such behavior, you pose a threat -- or at least you did back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Heck, even the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Exploring how masturbation was viewed in different eras according to the ontological horizon of each era, LaQueur gives a kind of x-ray of the politics, morals, and economic assumptions of each age. In the early Enlightenment days when Bentham's utilitarianism held sway, for instance, there could be no justification for solitary sex as it did not lead to anything "productive"(except, of course to pleasure). Four hundred years later, it is still policed as a "guilty pleasure," but since pleasure has been liberated as a virtue unto itself in the consumption society, thus masturbation has been transformed. And if it has not been fully transformed into a social good, then it has been been promoted as a valid personal choice, though still suspect. Well and simply written for an academic title with great illustrations.

A Comprehensive History of a Universal Subject
Masturbation began in 1712. This is the surprising assertion compendiously documented in _Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation_ (Zone Books) by Thomas W. Laqueur. Of course, that's an exaggeration, because since our primate cousins masturbate, we probably did so from our earliest beginnings. But in 1712, there was a shift in thinking about masturbation which brought it to the forefront of reform by moralists, physicians, and other do-gooders. Laqueur's book scrupulously documents the writings on the subject before, during, and after the big change. He admits, "Potentially autarkic solitary sexual pleasure touches the inner lives of modern humanity in ways we still do not understand." This may be so, but this large and yet sprightly history must increase the understanding of a covert but universal activity.

The ancients were nearly silent on the subject. Galen said that masturbation was a method of simply getting rid of excess sperm. In Jewish law, spilling seminal fluid was much debated by the rabbis. The only reference in the Bible that could relate specifically to masturbation does not. Christianity has sometimes used Onan's crime as an injunction against masturbation, although the wiser commentators note that masturbation was not Onan's violation (coitus interruptus, and thereby refraining from being fruitful and multiplying, was). Early Christian teaching was that masturbation was nonreproductive, and was thus to be avoided, but it was not a big source of worry. But then John Marten produced his masterwork; his authorship is revealed here for the first time. Marten was a quack who had written on venereal disease and had been clapped in irons for such an obscenity. In 1712, he published _Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self Pollution and all its Frightful Consequences_, and masturbation was never to be the same. Marten's book was a big advertisement for Marten's potions, which would cure the horrid vice. Marten's new anxiety filled a need, which Laqueur shows was due to the philosophy of the enlightenment. It was not until well into the twentieth century that physicians stopped blaming masturbation for all sorts of illness, and now it is advocated as part of self-discovery. The famous sex shop Good Vibrations declares every May to be National Masturbation Month, and the poster last year had the slogan, "Think Globally, Masturbate Locally."

Those who want warnings on the evils of the practice can still find many religious leaders who will oblige them. Laqueur closes this comprehensive study, which is academic but entertaining, with the incident of Joycelyn Elders, who was surgeon general until 1995, when she answered a reporter's question saying that sex education should include teaching about masturbation. In the minds of some moral persons, this seemed equivalent to teaching techniques of masturbation. She had not previously pleased them with her outspoken views on AIDS or pre-marital sex, but she used the M word, causing a rift with that moral beacon, President Clinton, who said that her view of the benefits of masturbation reflected "differences with administration policy." While it amused many that there was an administration policy on masturbation, Elders was out, and the two century legacy of quack John Marten continued.

Corporal Politics
Published in Paperback by Beacon Press (1992)
Authors: Helaine Posner, Louise Bourgeois, and Thomas Walter Laqueur
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Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780-1850
Published in Textbook Binding by Yale Univ Pr (1977)
Author: Thomas Walter Laqueur
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