Doctor E.H. Ruddock wrote in 1930 the following text regarding people engaging in "self-pollution":
The face is apt to be pale and often a bluish or purplish streak under the eyes, while the eyes themselves look dull and languid and the edges of the eyelids often become red and sore; the person can not look any ones readily in the face, but will drop the eyes or turn away from your gaze as if guilty of something mean.
The health soon becomes noticeably impaired; there will be general debility, a slowness of growth, weakness in the lower limbs, nervousness and unsteadiness of the hands, loss of memory, forgetfulness and inability to study or learn, a restless disposition. weak eyes and loss of sight, headache and inability to sleep or wakefulness. Next come sore eyes, blindness, stupidity, consumption, spinal affection, emaciation, involuntary seminal emissions, loss of all energy or spirit, insanity and idiocy.
It was in the 18th century when many authors, scandalized by the liberal morality of the moment, proposed a more conservative reform of sexual practices. Masturbation began to be connected with physical and mental illnesses. Its practitioners were accused of being immoral and degenerate.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant considered this practice as something inappropriate for civilized human beings. Rather, he responded to a lack of control on the part of the individual: "The total surrender to the animal inclination turns man into something contrary to nature, that is, into a repulsive object, losing all respect for himself."
Kant compares masturbation to suicide, and although both are reprehensible acts, at least in suicide there is a certain dignity and courage, something totally absent in masturbation.
Opinions similar to those of Kant were common at the time since there was a great influence of Pietism and Jansenism (a religious doctrine that considered the human species as depraved and condemned from the beginning by original sin).
The consideration of onanism as an immoral act implies a duality between the animal part of human beings and their spiritual aspect. It is the dualism between body and soul that Plato speaks of. An individual must know how to control their animal instincts and use sex as a reproductive method and not merely as sensual enjoyment.
However, this negative view of masturbation is not typical of the ancient world. The Sumerians, the Egyptians or the Greeks considered it as something natural, far from moral connotations. The god Enki of Sumerian mythology created the Tigris and Euphrates rivers after ejaculating. In Egypt the god Atum created the universe by masturbating.
With the development of Christianity, greater emphasis was placed on the spiritual aspect and on the renunciation of carnal pleasures. However, also in Eastern cultures we can find attempts to eliminate the practice. The reason behind is that the masculine energy is diluted and men become weak.
During the 20th century and especially the 21st, the taboo around masturbation has been gradually eliminated in the West. Today it is accepted as a common and beneficial practice for both physical and mental health.
But we must not forget that there are also notable exceptions. Minnie Joycelyn Elders was serving as Surgeon General of the United States in 1994 when she was invited to speak at a United Nations conference on AIDS. When asked if masturbation should be promoted among young people to avoid riskier sexual behavior, she replied: "I think that it is something that is part of human sexuality and it's a part of something that perhaps should be taught. But we've not even taught our children the very basics. And I feel that we have tried ignorance for a very long time and it's time to try education"
For her comments, she was forced to resign by president Bill Clinton, something that seen today appears to be a very clear case of double standards.