The secret vice

Masturbation in Victorian fiction and medical culture

By Diane Mason

The secret vice


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7714-2
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2008
  • BIC Category: Sexual Behaviour, Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, Literature, Social & cultural history, Literary theory, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Sexuality (see also PSYCHOLOGY / Human Sexuality), HISTORY / Social History


The secret vice: Masturbation in Victorian fiction and medical culture provides a unique consideration of writings on self-abuse in the long nineteenth century. The book examines the discourse on masturbation in medical works by English, Continental and American practitioners and demonstrates the influence and impact of these writings, not only on Victorian pornography but also in the creation of fictional characters by canonical authors such as Bram Stoker, J. S. Le Fanu, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde.

The book also features the first detailed and balanced study of the largely overlooked literature on masturbation as it pertains to women in clinical and popular medical works aimed at the female reader. Mason concludes with a consideration of the way the distinctly Victorian discourse on masturbation has persisted into the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries with particular reference to Willy Russell's tragic-comic novel, The Wrong Boy (2000) and to the construction of 'Victorian Dad', a character featured in the adult comic, Viz.


1. 'It is more than blackguardly, it is deadly': masturbation in the male
2. 'A beauty treatment that leaves us glowing'?: female masturbation and its consequences
3. 'The languor which I had long felt began to display itself
in my countenance': vampires, lesbians and masturbators
4. 'That mighty love which maddens one to crime': masturbation and same-sex desire in Teleny
5. 'His behaviour betrays the actual state of things': onanism and obsessive behaviour in Our mutual friend
6. 'Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face': conflicting signifiers of vice in The picture of Dorian Gray and The mystery of Edwin Drood


Diane Mason is a freelance writer and occasional lecturer in English literature

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