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Medicine, Masturbation and Professor Laqueur

Originally published 28 April 2004

The Centre for the History of Medicine is holding an event to commemorate the launch of 'Cultures and Practices of Health’, a programme of research activity to be undertaken by the Centre for the History of Medicine and funded by a generous award from the Wellcome Trust. Thomas Laqueur, Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, is to give a talk at the Centre for the History of Medicine.

Professor Laqueur wrote the groundbreaking book Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, in which he describes the medical discovery or invention of sex difference. His recent publication, Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, has been praised by the world-renowned scholar of Renaissance literature Stephen Greenblatt as being ‘brilliant’ and ‘courageous’.

Although masturbation is a common experience of both men and women it was denounced by teachers, doctors and churchmen as the vice of vices, punished by dreadful physical symptoms, from desiccated limbs to blindness. To prevent it, specialist manufacturers offered erection alarms, penis cases, sleeping mitts and hobbles to stop girls from spreading their legs. At Warwick Professor Laqueur will lecture on ‘Medicine and Masturbation in Historical Perspective.’

"We are delighted to have Professor Laqueur here to celebrate the launch of Cultures and Practices of Health,’’ said Dr Hilary Marland, Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine. ‘He has made an enormous impact on the study of sexuality and so represents the field of medical and cultural history with great distinction.’

Established in 1999, the Centre for the History of Medicine brings together activities in medical history from across the University of Warwick. A lively, interdisciplinary community, the Centre runs a programme of workshops, seminars and conferences, many of which are open to the public. The Centre also coordinates the activities of the MA in the Social History of Medicine, and a large cohort of postgraduate students.

Professor Laqueur will be speaking at the University of Warwick on Wednesday, 9th June, at 5pm in the Ramphal Lecture Theatre, Ramphal Building, Library Road. The event is free and is open to the public, however, all places must be booked in advance.

For more information contact Molly Rogers, Administrator for the Centre for the History of Medicine, on 024 7657 2601 or email