• Antimasturbation;
  • America;
  • Social Problems;
  • History of Medicine;
  • Masturbation;
  • Ejaculation


The antimasturbation fervor that swept through the English-speaking world during the 19th century raged with particular intensity and unequaled duration in the United States. American medical leaders were convinced that masturbation was the underlying cause of nearly all social problems and diseases. Even after the discovery and general acceptance of the germ theory of disease in the late 19th century, the U.S. medical establishment continued to maintain well into the middle of the 20th century that masturbation was both a pathological act and a cause of mental and physical disease. This article explores the dominant themes in the medical doctrines about masturbation that prevailed in the first half of the 19th century, by examining the case reports of five prominent American physicians: Benjamin Rush, Samuel Bayard Woodward, Alfred Hitchcock, Alonzo Garwood, and Edward H. Dixon. Hodges FM. The antimasturbation crusade in antebellum American medicine. J Sex Med 2005;2:722–731.