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Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Jun;39(3):637-52. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9465-3. Epub 2009 Feb 18.

Onanism and child sexual abuse: a comparative study of two hypotheses.

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Faculty of Human Sciences and Education, University of Zaragoza, 4 Calle Valentin Carderera, 22003 Huesca, Spain.


For some decades now in the West, there has been a growing social anxiety with regard to a phenomenon which has become known as child sexual abuse (CSA). This anxiety is fed by scientific theories whose cornerstone is the assessment of these experiences as necessarily harmful, due to their presumed serious consequences for the present and future lives of the minors involved in them. This principle, widely held by experts and laypersons alike, was also part and parcel of the danger presumably posed by Onanism, a phenomenon which occupied a similar position in society and medical science in the West during the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. The present work is a comparative review of these two hypotheses and the central objective was to compare the evolution and fundamental elements of the two hypotheses in light of what history tells us about Onanism theory. This comparative analysis will allow a critical look at the assumptions of the CSA hypothesis in order to make evident the similarities to the conceptual model that enabled the Onanism hypothesis in the past.

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