Onania: or, the heinous sin of self-pollution

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Title page of Onania with the full name and editorial details below. "Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution" is in large writing.
Sixth Edition of Onania (1722)

Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and All Its Frightful Consequences, in Both Sexes, Considered, With Spiritual and Physical Advice for Those Who Have Already Injur'd Themselves by This Abominable Practice, often referred to by its shortened title: Onania: or, the heinous sin of self-pollution, or simply Onania, is a pamphlet opposing masturbation. Its date of first publication is thought to be around 1712–1716 and copies are known to have been printed in London in 1723.[1][2][3] The identity of its author is unknown; it has been variously attributed to the English surgeon John Marten,[4][2] and to a "Dr. Bekkers".[3]

By 1730 there had been fifteen revised editions of the book by which time around 15,000 copies of the pamphlet had been printed.[5] It experienced international popularity, being translated into Dutch and German.[6] It was a best-seller of its time, selling tens of thousands of copies.[7]


Onania's author reaffirms contemporary religious beliefs that masturbation is sinful and one should therefore abstain from it. They also argue that the practice would result in diseases and physical abnormalities such as epilepsy, paleness, hysteria, feeble legs, and weak jaws.[5] Onania did not invent such ideas, but rather reproduced already existing notions.[6] The pamphlet also warns against the degradation of the human race by associating masturbation with giving birth to weak and sickly children.[6] Masturbation was said to cause a degradation of sperm and cause impotence.[6]

Onania describes masturbation as a "heinous sin" with "frightful consequences",[8] but considers it less serious than sodomy.[9]

The pamphlet encourages readers to buy remedies to help treat localised areas affected by masturbating.[6]


Onania was a significant influence on Samuel-Auguste Tissot's L'Onanisme in which he documents the negative effects of masturbation, especially on the nervous system.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Onania, or The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution: 1724 · Colonial America: The Age of Sodomitical Sin". outhistory.org. Retrieved 2019-09-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b "We need to talk about masturbation, the last great sexual taboo". The Globe and Mail. 2014-07-18. Archived from the original on 2023-02-25. Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  3. ^ a b "Onania: or, the heinous sin of self-pollution, and all its frightful consequences, in both sexes, consider'd, &c. With spiritual and physical advice to those who have already injur'd themselves by this abominable practice. The sixteenth edition, as also the seventh edition of the supplement to it, both of them revis'd and enlarg'd, and now printed together in this one volume. ..." collections.soane.org. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  4. ^ Laqueur, Thomas (2003). Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation. New York: Zone Books. pp. 31–32. ISBN 1-890951-32-3.
  5. ^ a b c Stolberg, Michael (January–April 2000). "Self-Pollution, Moral Reform, and the Venereal Trade: Notes on the Sources and Historical Context of Onania (1716)". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 9, No. 1/2 (1/2): 37–61. JSTOR 3704631.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Stolberg, M. (2000-04-01). "An Unmanly Vice: Self-Pollution, Anxiety, and the Body in the Eighteenth Century". Social History of Medicine. 13 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1093/shm/13.1.1. ISSN 0951-631X.
  7. ^ Magnanti, Dr Brooke (2014-08-07). "Does masturbating really make women and men less creative?". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  8. ^ Onania; or, The heinous sin of self-pollution, and all its frightful consequences, in both sexes, considered. With spiritual and physical advice to those, who have already injur'd themselves by this abominable practice. : And seasonable admonition to the youth (of both sexes) and those whose tuition they are under, whether parents, guardians, masters, or mistresses. : To which is added, a letter from a lady (very curious) concerning the use and abuse of the marriage bed. With the author's answer thereto. : [Six lines from Genesis]. May 2011.
  9. ^ "Onania, or The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution: 1724 · Colonial America: The Age of Sodomitical Sin · OutHistory: It's About Time". outhistory.org. Retrieved 2022-11-17.

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