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Enigmas of Identity$
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Peter Brooks

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151588

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151588.001.0001

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Discovering the Self in Self-Pleasuring

Discovering the Self in Self-Pleasuring

(p.92) 4 Discovering the Self in Self-Pleasuring
Enigmas of Identity

Peter Brooks

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on masturbation, the sex that one has with oneself. If masturbation becomes a “problem”—rather than simply a fact of life, dating from infancy and openly discovered at puberty—with the advent of modernity, this must have some bearing on the problem of individual identity, especially the sense of the individual as solitary, a system complete in itself, a body responsive to itself. The “problem” of masturbation may derive from a sense that the world outside the self has become unnecessary: that the self has become entirely solipsistic and self-satisfying. This is dangerously unproductive in an age of nascent capitalism, where the imperative to productive work includes the channeling of sexuality to disciplined reproduction. But even more disturbing is the suspicion that autoeroticism may suggest a discovery that self-love—narcissism—is the primary and original form of the erotic, which makes the socialization of the individual as crucial as it is difficult and possibly doomed.

Keywords:   masturbation, modernity, individual identity, solipsism, nascent capitalism, sexuality, disciplined reproduction, autoeroticism, self-love, narcissism

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