Saturday, December 11, 2004

Quotation of the day for December 11, 2004

"Laqueur's most recent book, Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of
Masturbation, shares with Making Sex the same startling initial
premise: that something we take for granted, something that goes
without saying, something that simply seems part of being human
has in fact a history, and a fascinating, conflicted, momentous
history at that. Small wonder then that he seemed a person whose
writings and lecture would enliven the semester for the
undergraduates in History and Literature. In fact he did enliven
the semester, but a strange thing happened along the way: there
was a tremendous outbreak of the jitters. Panic set in not among
the students--a large number of whom must have come of age
watching _There's Something About Mary_ --but among the core of
instructors who lead the seminars and conduct the tutorials.
Though sophisticated and highly trained, when they were faced
with the prospect of discussing the history of masturbation with
the students, many of them blanched. Coprophagia wouldn't have
fazed them at all, sodomy wouldn't have slowed them down, incest
would have actively interested them--but masturbation: please,
anything but that."

- Stephen Greenblatt, on the problems caused when he invited
friend and former colleague Thomas Laqueur to speak at a forum
for Harvard's undergraduate History and Literature program.

[We wonder how many of you will get this through your spam
filters. -eds.]

Submitted by: Mike Krawchuk
Jun. 2, 2004