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Autoeroticism is the practice of becoming sexually stimulated through internal stimuli. The term was popularized toward the end of the 19th century by British sexologist Havelock Ellis, who defined autoeroticism as "the phenomena of spontaneous sexual emotion generated in the absence of an external stimulus proceeding, directly or indirectly, from another [animate entity]." The most common autoerotic practice is masturbation, and though the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous, since not all autoerotic behaviors are masturbatory. Nocturnal emissions, erotic daydreams, and sexual arousal to 'sexually-neutral' stimuli (music, scenery, art, risk, spiritual reverie, etc.) are also examples of autoeroticism.
Many people use sex toys such as dildos, vibrators, anal beads and Sybian machines while alone. Autofellatio, the act of orally stimulating one's own penis, is thought to occur in less than 1% of the male population, possibly because of the physical flexibility required to perform it.
Some people, for religious or personal reasons, believe autoeroticism to be wrong. For example, masturbation is considered to be a sin by the Roman Catholic Church because it violates the purpose of the "...total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love." As such, it is viewed as an offense against chastity.
Teaching adolescents about masturbation remains controversial in some parts of the world. For example, in 1994 Bill Clinton fired Joycelyn Elders who was Surgeon General of the United States in part because she advocated teaching about masturbation in schools as a way of preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
A few autoerotic practices are considered unsafe, sometimes even leading to death. These include autoerotic asphyxiation and self-bondage. The potential for injury or even death that exists while engaging in these practices rather than the partnered versions (erotic asphyxiation and bondage, respectively) becomes drastically increased due to the isolation and lack of assistance in the event of a problem.
The word autoeroticism is occasionally used to refer to sexual feeling occurring without external stimulation.
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