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Autoeroticism

Manual stimulation (usually self-stimulation) of the genital organs with the intention, typically, of producing sexual arousal and orgasm.

Autoeroticism is the scientific term used to describe masturbation, the stimulation of the genital organs to achieve orgasm. Although masturbation was widely condemned in most premodern societies, and has been the subject of remarkable and persistent superstitions and extreme taboos, there is evidence that contemporary attitudes toward masturbation are becoming increasingly tolerant of this behavior. Studies in the United States and Europe indicate that about 90 percent of adolescent and adult males and about 80 percent of adolescent and adult females have engaged in masturbation. While masturbation is usually a private, solitary activity, it is often accompanied by fantasies of sexual activity that involve another person. Relatively few individuals consistently prefer masturbation to sexual activity that involves another person. It has been shown that masturbation is not physically harmful, and the psychological significance of masturbation depends on how it is regarded by the individual.

Further Reading

Marcus, Irwin M., and John J. Francis, eds. Masturbation: From Infancy to Senescence. New York: International Universities Press, 1975.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Abacus to Courage