Masturbation and Homosexuality: Timeline

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The early literature on masturbation unexpectedly provides an important additional source for research on social attitudes toward both male and female same-sex intimacy, and of references to physical same-sex relations that would today be called homosexual.[1]

OutHistory would like your help in adding additional full citations to literature linking masturbation and homosexuality, preferably with a few choice quotations.


OPEN ENTRY: This entry is open to collaborative creation by anyone with evidence, citations, and analysis to share, so no particular, named creator is responsible for the accuracy and cogency of its content. Please use this entry's Comment section at the bottom of the page to suggest improvements about which you are unsure. Thanks.

Listings: earliest to latest

1656, March 1

Sodomy law: New Haven, March 1, 1656 The New Haven "sodomy" statute is unique among American colonial legislation in extending the death penalty to acts of women "against nature," male-female anal intercourse, and, in certain circumstances, masturbation.

1671, June 6

Sodomy law: Plymouth, June 6, 1671 The . . . qualification, that "all other sodomitical filthiness" shall be punished according to its nature, may have meant that anal penetration was necessary for the death penalty, and that other types of non-penetrative, "sodomitical" (sodomy-like) acts, such as mutual or public masturbation, were not to be punished so severely.


Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution: 1724 Reprinted in Boston in 1724, this first warning against masturbation published in the American colonies, was one of the earliest of such diatribes.

1868, May 6

Kertbeny: "Homosexual," "Heterosexual," May 6, 1868 "his other writings indicate that "Monosexual" referred to masturbation, practiced by both sexes."


Martin Duberman: “The Perils of Masturbation,” 1878

Mary Edwards Walker's book Unmasked, or The Science of Immorality. To Gentlemen. By a Woman Physician and Surgeon, published in Philadelphia in 1878, In a subsection of her chapter on "Social Evil," discusses "Masturbation." condemning its harmful effects on both women and men. See: Mary Edwards Walker: November 26, 1832-February 21, 1919


In a medical journal article on "Masturbation as a Cause of Insanity" (1879), Dr. Allen W. Hagenbach cites the case of an effeminate young man with "morbid" attractions to persons of his own sex (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease [Chicago], vol. 6, p. 603-12. Cited by Bullough, p. 148-49, see below).

1883, January

P. M. Wise, "Case of Sexual Perversion," January 1883 Reports on patient Lucy Ann Lobdell: "Has had less sexual perversion. Dementia increasing. Practices masturbation and the practice is increasing."


Dr. Henry N. Guernsey's Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects (N.Y.: 1889), p. 82, declares: "It is true that some young ladies, the sweetest and fairest of our race, playwith one another in an immodest and indecent way, teaching immorality to the pure and innocent" (quoted by Milton Rugoff, Prudery and Passion [N.Y.: Putnam, 1971], p. 267).

1889, September 7 and 14

Dr. G. Frank Lydston says in a two-part medical journal article that satyriasis and nymphomania should be treated by the "removal of irritation of the sexual apparatus," "anaphrodisiac remedies," "attempts to restrain sexual excesses, or to break the habit of masturbation." See: Timeline: Treatment of LGBT People by Doctors and Psychologists

Dr. James F. Scott's The Sexual Instinct (N.Y., 1899) contains a chapter on "Onanism" (p. 419-32) which defines this term as referring to "all forms of sexual stimulation by either sex, singly or mutually, to produce orgasm in unnatural ways--i.e., otherwise than by coitus." Included among the onanistic acts are "pederasty" and" 'mutual masturbation'."

1894, March 28

Guy T. Olmstead Shoots William L. Clifford: March 28,1894 "after emasculation it was possible for a man to have erections, commit masturbation, and have the same passion as before. I am ashamed of myself; I hate myself . . . ."

ca. 1895

In the mid-1890s, F. Hoyt Pilcher, the head of a Kansas institution for the feebleminded, had four boys and fourteen girls castrated without legal authority. It was explained in his defense that castration would prevent "excessive masturbation and pervert [sic] sexual acts". Public outcry stopped further castrations. Source: Cave, F. C. "Report of Sterilization in the Kansas State Home for Feeble-minded," Journal of PsychoAsthenics, vol. 15 [1911], p. 123-25; cited in Arno Karlen, Sexuality and Homosexuality; A New View (N.Y.: Norton, 1971), p. 332.[OutHistory would especially like more documentation of these castrations.] See: Timeline: Treatment of LGBT People by Doctors and Psychologists


In 1905, Dr. William Lee Howard of Baltimore writes on "Masturbation in the Young Girl the Cause of Acquired Sexual Perversiop. [Lesbianism]" (Buffalo Medical Journal, vol. 61, no. 5 [Dec.], p. 290-92.)


In 191I, Dr. William Lee Howard, in a chapter on "Self Abuse-How to Stop It ... " in his Confidential Chats with Boys (N.Y.: Clode), p. 102-04, warns: "Never sleep with another person, man or boy," describing the dire consequences of such sleeping arrangements. "Sleeping with another person ... affects the sex organs ... and causes a feeling of attraction towards these delicate organs.... many boys will be tempted to talk and play with each other. ... in the end it means self-abuse."

Dr. Howard emphasizes: "Never trust yourself in bed with a boy or man." If there is only one bed, "sleep on the floor ... go without sleeping rather than have that 'first time' happen to you."

Howard adds: "There are things in trousers called men, so vile that they wait in hiding for the innocent boy." He warns "Look out for these vermin, be suspicious of any man in trousers who ... tries to see you alone and prefers to go in bathing with boys instead of men. Don't go to drive or walk with these things, for all the time they are only waiting to teach boys to help them in self-abuse or something far nastier."

Dr. Howard concludes: "So never sleep with a man, except your father. If you ... find yourself in bed with a man, keep awake with your eyes on something you can hit him with."[2]


In 1914, Douglas C. McMurtrie of New York writes a "Note on Masturbation in Woman: Its Relation to Sexual Inversion" (Cincinnati Medical News, vol. I, p. 287), a brief article translating parts of a work by Alibert, La masturbation chez la femme (Paris), n.d.

1920, October

J. Allen Gilbert: "Homosexuality and Its Treatment," October 1920 Mentions masturbation as part of the sexual history of "H" (Alberta Lucile Hart).


Earl Lind (Ralph Werther-Jennie June): The Riddle of the Underworld, III. Sexual Intermediates in General Refers to sex acts "between the thighs of a partner]; of both types of gynanders, manustupration [masturbation by hand] on the beloved or cunnilingus [oral stimulation performed on a woman...."


Edward Field: 1924-present "I’d had the usual mutual-masturbation sessions with a friend or two, but when I was fifteen...."

A Study of Masturbation and Its Reputed Sequelae by John Francis Wallace Meagher. W. Wood and Company, 1924. 69 pages. Meagher was a neurologist at St. Mary's Hospital, Brooklyn. A title in the One Institute library, see: Titles 751-1000

1942, July

Banay, Ralph S. and L. Davidoff. "Apparent Recovery of a Sex Psychopath after Lobotomy," Journal of Criminal Psychopathology (N.Y.), vol. 4, no. I (July 1942), p. 59-66. Here the doctors report that after lobotomy the patient's masturbation stopped, he became "complacent" and "tranquil," and "showed no sign of conflict with his environment." He "remained courteous, meek, obliging and attentive." The doctors conclude that lobotomy "might be a new and important development." See; Bibliography: Treatment of LGBT People by Doctors and Psychologists

1973, April

In 1973, Vern Bullough writes on the connections between "Homosexuality and the Secret Sin [Masturbation] in Nineteenth Century America" (Journal of the History of Medicine, vol. 28, p. 143-54). Check above citation against the following: Bullough, Vern L., and Martha Voght. "Homosexuality and the 'Secret Sin' in Pre-Freudian America," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 28, no. 2 (April 1973), p. 143-55. Surgical measures for masturbation, satyriasis, etc., are cited. See: Timeline: Treatment of LGBT People by Doctors and Psychologists

1975, August

Catholicism and Homosexuality in the U.S.: Timeline 1975 August A “major sex study” conducted by the Catholic Theological Society of America draws attention a year before its results are even scheduled to be published. According to the priest who lead it, the study which is expected to discuss birth control, premarital sex, masturbation, and homosexuality, will ‘shock and upset some'....”


Berker-Benfield, G. J. The Horrors of the Half-Known Life; Male Attitudes Toward Women and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century America (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1976). Surgical measures for masturbation, satyriasis, etc., are cited; on sexual surgery, p. 82-83, 88-90, 91 iI., 97, 104, 120-32,286-87, 292-93. See: Timeline: Treatment of LGBT People by Doctors and Psychologists


Buena Vista Park: Which Woods Were the Problem? 1980-1991 "...could take pleasure in an anonymous fuck, blow-job, three-some, four-some, masturbation circle—whatever they wanted!—all within the privacy and the safety of ...."

1993, January 14

"Mark Kendall," January 14, 1993 "And even though there was only the same sex fantasized about during masturbation, I still did not identify myself in that fashion and as a teenager dated an...."

1993, November

The Lutheran Church and Homosexuality in the U.S.: Timeline After a four-year effort, the first draft of a statement on human sexuality by a committee of the ELCA, which claims that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that both homosexuality and masturbation are described as a “healthy part of human life,” is leaked by the media and provokes a firestorm of controversy among Church members. See also: Religion and Homosexuality in the U.S.: Timeline

1995, December 1

December 9 President Clinton fires Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders for describing masturbation as a healthy sexual outlet at a World AIDS Day conference on December 1st. See: Out in Atlanta


Doug Ireland: "'Free the Buggers'," September 6, 2007 Refers to the English law against "acts of 'gross indecency' (which included masturbation and oral sex)"

2009, February 2

U.S. Supreme Court: Lawrence v. Texas, June 26, 2003 Refers to state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity.

This entry is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Search for "masturbation" on OutHistory up to Chauncey and others.


  1. Some of this text first appeared in Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976), pages 641-642.
  2. Jonathan Ned Katz thanks Jeffrey Escoffier for providing the above document.