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From The Myth of Mental Illness nearly two decades ago through Psychiatric Slavery and Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry (both 1976), Thomas Szasz has tried to scale the psychiatric giant down to size--not always with authority or reason, but usually with enough passionate conviction to involve. This latest attack on sex therapists and educators--focusing on Masters and Johnson, and Mary Calderone of SIECUS--is another mixed quantity. Szasz traces the evolution of medical thought from ""the doctrine of masturbatory insanity"" to what he sees now as the unjustified glorification of masturbation--so much so that Masters and Johnson consider women who do not indulge to orgasm as suffering from ""masturbatory orgasmic inadequacy."" Szasz is pretty convincing in his bid to prove the arbitrariness of medical categories: what once was disease is now treatment, and in some cases vice versa. But he loses in charging that Masters and Johnson's work is not ""medical or therapeutic but a moral and political enterprise,"" since his own stance is so patently moralistic: he decries Masters and Johnson as little more than procurers in a prostitution enterprise (in some cases even planning and enabling the ""consummation of an adulterous relationship""). And he has little more regard for sex education as pioneered by Calderone: he posits an unproven cause-and-effect connection between its onset and ""an increased rate of illegitimate pregnancy"" among teenagers. These excesses notwithstanding, Szasz does make you wonder how and why sexual function became primarily a medical issue, particularly since medicine appears to carry its own moral imperatives (which are then passed on to children in the schools with all the authority of ""mental health"" pronouncements). Skewed, but an unsettling look into an emotion-laden area.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday