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From Masturbation to Homosexuality: A Case of Displaced Moral Disapproval


I argue that the decline in moral disapproval of masturbation in the American religious culture over the last half-century is directly responsible for increased moral disapproval of homosexuality. Moral disapproval previously directed toward masturbators is being redirected instead toward homosexuals. Since masturbation has been practiced by the overwhelming majority of individuals who self-identify with the American religious culture, while homosexual acts have been engaged in by a significantly smaller number of individuals who self-identify with this culture, the displacement of moral disapproval from masturbatory behavior to homosexual behavior leads to the stigmatization of those who engage in homosexual behavior, and an attitude of moral superiority and personal condescension inevitably follows. Nineteenth and twentieth century writings on the perils and evils of masturbation are cited in support of this argument.

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Capps, D. From Masturbation to Homosexuality: A Case of Displaced Moral Disapproval. Pastoral Psychology 51, 249–272 (2003).

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  • homosexuality
  • masturbation
  • mental illness
  • moral disapproval
  • reproduction