Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 627–653 | Cite as

The Organ of Tactility: Fantasy, Image, and Male Masturbation

  • Jaco J. HammanEmail author


This article explores the interplay of fantasy and image in male solitary masturbation in the virtual age. Online pornography has drastically changed the intimate relationship between the hand and the penis. The case of a 17-year-old boy and his excessive use of Internet pornography is used to highlight pornography’s impact on a person’s well-being and neurology. A brief exploration of three histories of masturbation shows how the discourse on masturbation often serves political agendas and addresses the central role of sexual fantasy in the practice. Sexual fantasy is explored through the research of British psychoanalyst Brett Kahr. To examine the significance of the eye in pornography, philosopher Michael Taussig’s concept of “the eye as the organ of tactility” is discussed. The essay concludes by offering a framework for discerning whether masturbating to images might be disordered or not. Fantasy, which is nonvisual sexual arousal, can relieve a person from the tyranny of the eye and of compulsive masturbation.


Boys Brett Kahr Erotic fantasy Internet Mark Twain Masturbation Men Onanism Pornography Samuel-Auguste Tissot Sex Sexuality Michael Taussig Technology 



I am indebted to Donald Capps (1939–2015), whose writings on masturbation (Capps 2003; Carlin and Capps 2015) taught me the importance of reflecting on this common practice. I am grateful to the 2017 Pastoral Theology Men’s Conference participants (who met in Philadelphia May 31–June 2) for their comments and feedback on this paper. Vanderbilt University research assistant Melanie Bockman assisted in proofreading and editing the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology, and CultureNashvilleUSA

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