Masturbation and homosexuality over the past century have been repositioned with specific images that range from “normality” to tolerable or normal deviance. The continued oppressions associated with masturbation are largely confined to those that individuals are encouraged to impose upon themselves. Currently, masturbation is accepted in current schemata of individual development. Even for psychoanalysts, masturbation becomes a stage-appropriate behavior, though one not without its inherent dangers (Kaplan 1988; Laufer and Laufer 1989). Some consideration of the positive and enabling role it plays in psychosexual development has appeared (Freud 1914; Hillman 1975; Gagnon and Simon 1972). Outside of a concern for adolescence, however, it remains largely unexamined despite the research of Kinsey et al. (1948, 1953) and more recently the findings reported by Lauman and his associates (1994), which pointed to its persistent appearance in the lives of significant numbers over the longer span of the life cycle and as part of the sexual repertoire of many who are sexually active in other ways as well.

Most of the dominant institutions of society continue to define homosexuality as undesirable, but they do so with a dramatic erosion of credibility and confidence. For many at all levels of social life, lesbians and gay men no longer appear mysteriously hypersexual, but instead as disenchantingly pedestrian figures of everyday reality. Except for the most homophobic, the fear of homosexuality rests not upon its own claims, but upon what else must be reconsidered when homosexuality is reconsidered, not least of which is the already embattled privileging of marital sex. This is not to say that homophobia and its attendant irrationalities will not continue to occasion cruelties and pain, but that manifestations of homophobia must increasingly be seen as being irrational. The widened perception of homophobic practices as cruel, unjust, and irrational occurs because those practices must increasingly contradict and, at times, disrupt current conventional practices in areas of social life both immediately and remotely connected to the sexual.

The dominant claimants to the center stage of current perversions are pedophilia (the violation of norms of age) and sadomasochism (the extreme elaboration of the often hidden or denied norms of hierarchy, the language of power). These seem to provoke the qualities of widely publicized indignation that indicates that their presence may be known in the sexual imageries of a large number of persons.