“Shameful to Wives, Ridiculous for Husbands, and Unworthy of Tribunals”

in Impotence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780226500768
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226500935 | DOI:
“Shameful to Wives, Ridiculous for Husbands, and Unworthy of Tribunals”

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In 1709 John Marten enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the first man in England indicted at the Queen's Bench for pornography. His crime was to have authored Gonosologium Novum; or, A New System of All the Secret Infirmities and Diseases, Natural, Accidental, and Venereal in Men and Women. The indictment was in the end thrown out and whatever slight notoriety Marten enjoys today stems more from his purported authorship of Onania (1712), the classic text that launched the masturbation panic in eighteenth-century Europe. Historians have failed to note that in the first portion of Gonosologium Novum, Marten provided an unprecedentedly detailed and exhaustive account of the causes and cures of male impotence. The discussion of male dysfunctions was intimately implicated in the important shifts in gender relations in the 1700s that gave rise to new models of masculinity and femininity. For Marten the final proof of potency was conception and that could fail if the man could not last; a good erection and good seed were not enough.

Keywords: impotence; John Marten; Onania; masturbation; Gonosologium Novum; masculinity; conception; erection; gender relations; femininity

Chapter.  10514 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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