Masturbation Month Chronicles
May is National Masturbation Month, having been so declared by my mentor–whose first book taught me to have my first masturbatory orgasm at the ripe age of 19–the Godmother of Masturbation herself, Dr. Betty Dodson. Why bother to have a National Masturbation Month here in the Masturbation Nation? Since just about everybody plays sexual solitaire at least sometimes, regardless of the month, it’s America’s—and the world’s—preferred leisure past time; far more popular than playing football (Sperm Wars notwithstanding), blackjack or even the lottery.
Yet, far too few of us private Onanists are willing to “own it” and admit publicly that we indulge. Here in our Land of the Relatively Free, we have plenty of Gay Pride and Leather Pride, but not much Wanker Pride. I mean, would you wear the t-shirt? Probably not, because “sex for one,” as relatively harmless and healing as we now know it to be, is still condemned and ridiculed as an illicit, shameful act by our religious and political leaders, not to mention many of our friends and family. Thus, most of us keep our single-handed pleasures under the covers and in the closet.
National Masturbation Month is a respectful attempt to open that closet door just a crack (pun intended), letting a little Spring sunlight shine in on that which is usually hidden and forbidden.
It’s all part of your masturbation education. Yes, it may feel like playing hooky, but masturbation has a lot of mental and physical health benefits. For starter, it can teach you a lot about your own body: what kinds of touch arouse you, what positions relax you, what fantasies stimulate you, what props get you hot. Masturbation helps you to find your mental and physical rhythm and style for maximum orgasmic pleasure.
Partner sex is more romantic, of course, and usually more meaningful, but it also tends to be more stressful. Unless you’re a narcissist, you probably concentrate more on your lover’s pleasure than your own. During masturbation, you don’t have to worry about pleasing anybody but yourself. That way, you can relax and explore at your own pace, learning all kinds of stuff about your erotic responses that you can use to become not only a better lover, but a more orgasmic, relaxed, happy, peaceful and sexually satisfied person.
For instance, if you’ve never done kegels or PC (pubococcygeus) muscle exercises, the perfect time to try them is during a private session of solo sex. Just in case you don’t know, both men and women have PC muscles. To locate yours, concentrate on the area between your genitals and your anus, and squeeze it as if you’re stopping a stream of urine. Then release. Now squeeze as you breathe in and release as you breathe out. That’s it! And that’s a lot.
Since the PC muscles are the ones that contract and release, or pulsate, during sexual climax, doing your PCs, or kegels, will help you to achieve longer, stronger and more multiple orgasm experiences, as well as greater control over when you have them. Like any kind of physical exercise, kegels take practice and concentration; this is tough to muster when you’re making love with a partner. But before or during masturbation, you can easily practice squeezing and releasing your PC muscles. Lots of quick-on-the-trigger guys learn to manage their tendency toward premature ejaculation through PC training. Many young women who can’t climax with their also-young, inexperienced lovers have their first orgasms through this type of focused masturbation education exercise.
Besides being educational, experts agree that masturbation can be a relatively easy, but excellent cardiovascular workout and a very safe form of sexual release. Moreover, as Truman Capote once opined, “The good thing about masturbation is that you don’t have to get dressed up for it.” Come as you are.
Masturbation Taboos from Bible Times to Medieval
Of course, not everyone is celebrating May as Masturbation Month. In fact, many condemn the very practice of solo-sex, let alone the dedication of an entire month to honoring it. Why is such a natural, pleasurable, healthful, free, convenient, educational, ecological (population control, anyone?) and virtually harmless act so embarrassing, so unmentionable, so vilified?
After all, as the late, great George Carlin said, “If God had intended us not to masturbate, s/he would have made our arms shorter.”
Other people have other ideas about God. Society’s prohibitions against “self-abuse” seem to have begun thousands of years ago as a moral code to sustain agrarian culture and tribal wars. Some say it started in Old Testament times, when the infamous Onan was struck dead by God for “spilling his seed upon the ground.” Biblically speaking, this was more of a case of coitus interruptus than masturbation, but the general tribal assumption was that masturbation was taboo. Why? Tribal leaders assumed that if folks were masturbating—that is, having sex for *fun* instead of channeling their entire sex drive into reproductive endeavors—they wouldn’t “be fruitful and multiply,” meaning they wouldn’t spawn enough children to work their harvests and man their armies. You could consider this ancient tribal taboo against masturbation and other forms of non-reproductive sex to be The Mother of All Membership Drives.
Medieval Christians went on to further denigrate the joys of sex-for-one by equating any kind of sexual pleasure with pure evil. Though Jesus himself, according to the Gospels, said nothing at all about masturbation, early Christian Fathers like Saint Paul and Saint Augustine were inflamed by what they saw as sexual degeneracy in themselves and others. They declared masturbation to be a gargantuan sin, one of the worst a human being could commit, condemning the poor wanker down to the lowest levels of eternal hell, lower than even rapists and child molesters.
Unlike a so-called “natural sin” such as rape, fornication, bigamy or adultery, masturbation was considered a “sin against nature.” What made masturbation “unnatural” is anybody’s guess, since nature shows us many creatures—dogs, cats, monkeys and, of course, bonobos, to name a few—having sex for one just for fun.
Medieval Christian Fathers were not big on fun, at least not for the common folk. Around 1300, the Archbishop of Sens wrote, regarding sins against nature, that “the first branch is when man or woman by him or herself, alone and aware of the fact and awake, falls into the filth of sin.” This proclamation encouraged the already (and still!) popular practice of feigning sleep whilst flogging the hog.
Though a natural sin like fornication was considered fairly minor, absolvable by a parish priest, masturbation, being “unnatural,” could be absolved only by bishops or their lieutenants. Thus, the Church Fathers shrewdly used the masturbation taboo to gain deep psychological power over an uneducated, frightened populace. In other words, they had ’em by the balls.
Over the centuries, frightening superstitions spread. Indulgence in self-love causes warts, blindness, insanity and hair on the palms, not to mention eternal damnation in hell. Since everybody masturbated, everybody could be made to feel masturbation phobia, guilt, shame and the profound need for expiation…but to appease whom? You’ve got it: the Church Fathers!
And yet, no one suffered more from the strict Catholic bans on masturbation than the lower-level monks, nuns and priests, sworn to celibacy and forbidden from self-love. This is probably one reason self-flagellation was so popular; at least you got to touch yourself! On the other hand, a more accepting approach to masturbation may have prevented the Church from descending into its current morass of troubles in the arena of not merely “taboo,” but illegal and very harmful forms of sexuality.
Masturbation Taboos: From the 19th-21st Centuries
Ancient and medieval religious leaders led the charge against solo sex in an attempt to keep their flock’s hands above their laps in prayer and their libidos focused on procreation, not recreation, by promising them hairy palms and hellfire just for letting their fingers do the walking below the belt. But Victorian and even modern pundits have been almost as nonsensical in their dire condemnations of “self-abuse.”
For instance, there’s the more “modern” notion that masturbation is wasteful of those “precious bodily fluids” that Dr. Strangelove‘s Jack D. Ripper is so obsessed with. This humdinger has roots in both Eastern and Western thought, which posit that men have a limited amount of sperm and that every ejaculation depletes a man’s finite allotment of precious semen, resulting in weakness and eventual impotence. Actually, the opposite is closer to the scientific truth: use it or lose it. If a man doesn’t have sex or masturbate consistently throughout his life, as he gets older, he is more likely to lose his ability to get erections and ejaculate. Studies show that he is also more likely to have prostate problems.
Of course, if you ejaculate nine times a day, you will not shoot more than a gasp and a dribble by Ejaculation #9. So if you want to maximize your semen output, keep your hands off your treasure for 72 hours—enough time to build up your maximum load. Wait much longer than that and you won’t build up anything but an unholy case of blue balls.
Though women don’t produce semen, the myth that female masturbation is debilitating, unfeminine or just plain wrong has also held sway over the centuries. Witch doctors and medical doctors alike, in their vain attempts to stop women from touching their clitorises, have gone so far as to chop them off, sometimes along with the labia, performing horrific “clitorectomies” or “female circumcisions” that sometimes kill their victims (usually young girls) and always deform them. Though Western doctors now rarely perform these operations, female circumcisers still actively practice their trade in various African and Asian villages.
Then there’s male circumcision, widely practiced all over the world, sometimes with elaborate religious ritual, as among Muslims and Jews, but also in hospitals where it is presented as *necessary* for hygiene. Most experts, however, now agree that it’s not only medically unnecessary, but could very possibly damage boys—both physically and psychologically. Some even say that male circumcision is nothing but a massive, brutally child-abusive, ultimately rather fruitless effort to control male masturbation.
Two major American circumcision enthusiasts were also the biggest anti-masturbation activists of the 19th century: Graham Cracker Czar Sylvester Graham and Corn Flake King John Kellogg. The consumption of either Graham’s Crackers or Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was supposed to suppress the sex drive. Did it work? Not at all, scientifically speaking. But then Kellogg and Graham weren’t very scientific, especially when it came to masturbation. Kellogg called it “the vilest, the basest and the most degrading act that a human being can commit.” These were also the times in which horrific anti-masturbation devices—trusses, penis cages and chastity belts for hapless teens with wandering hands—were all the rage. It’s ironic how many of these devices are now used for erotic stimulation; perhaps they were then, too, though no one would dare admit to it.
Far too many anti-masturbation superstitions have proliferated though history to list here, and science has disproved them all. Regardless, in many circles self-pleasuring is still unmentionable, even when its advocacy could save lives. American Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign when she mentioned masturbation in the context of safe sex education. Maybe if Bill Clinton had taken Dr. Elders’ advice instead of firing her, he’d have sidestepped being sideswiped by the Religious Right. Dr. J is now a patron saint of solo sex; a popular masturbation euphemism is “firing the surgeon general.”
Speaking of American presidents, the George W. Bush administration demonstrated a dark twist on the touchy subject of masturbation in the notorious Abu Ghraib pictures that show leering American soldiers forcing helpless, hooded prisoners to masturbate. What this was supposed to accomplish in terms of “national defense” is unclear. Is it a punishment? A reward? A bizarre, religiously inspired humiliation? A sick way for the guards to blow off steam? A very bad joke? A military-industrial fetish? Some kind of interrogational inducement to spill the beans along with the seed? Whatever its ostensible purpose, the infamous Abu Ghraib photos cast yet another deeply sinister shadow on the innocent pleasures of masturbation.
Masturbation Month: Positive Myths and Eroticizing Shame
Despite millennia of anti-masturbation mania, there exists some positive folklore on the natural wonders of whacking off. According to the Greeks, masturbation was a gift from the gods. Hermes revealed it to Pan (after his love for a nymph had gone unrequited), demonstrating how the simple act of masturbation could be an excellent rape prevention technique. Pan then taught the shepherds—for which we can only assume that the sheep must have been grateful.
The Greek philosopher Diogenes praised the extraordinary physical efficiency of masturbation: “Would to heaven that it were enough to rub one’s stomach in order to allay one’s hunger.” The people who brought the world democracy understood the powerful, positive benefits of solo sex. So did their gods.
It’s ironic that belief in One God would go hand-in-hand with antipathy towards Sex for One. But as discussed in our previous column, most of the world’s major monotheistic religions teach that masturbation is terribly wrong. This gives many people a strong sense of guilt and shame whenever they pleasure themselves. Learning the health benefits and relative harmlessness of masturbation, as well as discovering that you’re not alone and that other normal, decent and even “cool” people do it, too, can help appease your sense of shame.
But if you can’t manage to shake all of your shame, you can always eroticize it. You might do this already. Sex is intrinsically perverse and our anti-sex society makes it more so; thus many of us need to feel bad in order to feel good. The naughtier we feel about masturbating, the better masturbation feels. Take it from a sex therapist: People who grow up tortured by religious dicta against “self-abuse” often become some of the world’s most avid masturbators.
Masturbation taboos never die; they just mutate with the times. Now, instead of fearing that masturbation will make us blind, we worry that it will brand us as a lonely, desperate, pathetic, unlovable “sex addict.” Masturbation is not an “addiction” in a scientific sense, like certain drugs can be addictive. However, like anything really good in life, masturbation can be habit-forming. Jerkin’ your gherkin can be so damn convenient that you don’t want to bother with the rigors of dating, mating, communicating with your spouse, or whatever social hurdle you’d have to jump in order to have partner sex. Physically speaking, you can get so accustomed to the rhythm of your own hand, or the megabuzz of your vibrator, that you prefer masturbation to making love. Psychologically, you might find the enjoyment of your own erotic fantasies much easier, more compelling, less invasive and more satisfying than the complexities of intimacy with another human being.
If you feel like you’re masturbating instead of having sex with your willing spouse or getting out into the dating world, if you’re OD’ing on internet porn, it might be a good idea to cut down a bit, if only so you have the time and energy to get to the source of the problem. That said, masturbation is kind of like food: you can’t completely stop; you can only reduce or modify. This is why you might benefit from talking to a sex therapist who understands the normalcy and value of masturbation, but can help you to get it under control, so it doesn’t destroy your relationship or your chances of getting into one.
On the other hand, not everyone in this world needs to be—or should be—in an intimate sexual relationship. Yet, we all need touch; we all need sex; and we all need love. And self-love is a kind of love. Maybe not the ideal love, but, more often than not, the ideal is the enemy of the real. And sometimes, especially after a bad break-up, or when you’re sick, injured, stressed, or physically separated from your lover, self-love is the best kind of love. It’s certainly a lot better than gorging on chocolate brandy cordials, stalking your ex, having sex with people you don’t really like, gambling away your kid’s college fund, mainlining any kind of drugs, or many of the other ill-advised things people do to comfort themselves.
Masturbation: Mom’s View
May also happens to be the month of Mother’s Day. Why do these apparently opposite celebrations belong in the same month? Solo sex is almost always the very first erotic activity of our lives. Even in utero, we touch ourselves for relaxation and pleasure. As babies, we play with any part of our bodies we can reach, but our genitals are especially exciting, because of the intensity of sensation. For better and for worse, our mothers often catch us at it.
Thanks to my own Dr. Spock-influenced mom, I didn’t grow up too inhibited about masturbation. Like most kids, I started playing with myself at around the time I started playing. Not that my mother approved of my masturbating, but she did, at least, put up with it. That is, she didn’t punish me; she just warned me to cool it in public–like when she caught me holding the sprinkler under my crotch on the front lawn, or sliding my hand under my skirt during the duller portions of the Passover Seder.
At least, Mom’s pragmatic attitude didn’t denigrate my sexuality. “Suzy,” she said when she caught me petal pushing, “stop that. Your hands are dirty, and it’s clean down there.” She was right about my hands being dirty—probably sticky with peanut butter and jelly or something I’d pulled out of my nose. And I will always appreciate her designation of my netherparts as “clean.” She wasn’t George Carlin, Diogenes or even Truman Capote, but at least Mom had an oddly sex-positive way of attempting to regulate my masturbatory passions.
Thank you, Mom!
It’s stories like these that make the fact that May is shared by both Mother’s Day and Masturbation Month feel less and less incongruous. And when a mainstream company like NewEgg is hyping Hitachi Magic Wands for Mother’s Day as “something for Mom’s home,” you know a new day is dawning for solo sex.
If Mom can do it, anyone can do it. Speaking of motherhood, May is also National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. And what better safe sex method is there for pregnancy prevention than masturbation?
So…make love to someone you love tonight, even if that someone is you.
And don’t forget to wash your hands before you do! Remember what my mama said! Then you can lick your fingers…
New Private Galleries: Broken Door Fetish Launch, Tantric Tranny Snakes, Hookers & Persians, Oh My!
In honor of Masturbation Month, we have some fabulous solo sex photos, as well as even more awesome, explicit images of partner sex, orgy sex, BDSM sex and you-name-it sex, in our newest private galleries, featuring some of the world’s greatest erotic photographers as well as a few of our friends with cameras who happened to be in the right place at the wildest time.
“Tantric Tranny Snakes” features hot TS Christina and voluptuous Tantric Corynna, while the Broken Door Fetish Launch Party (from the old Speakeasy), presents such BDSM luminaries as Master D and Bunny, Goddess Soma and her boi, Cadence St. John, Regan Reese, Carina Crash, Sula and a host of other amazing Dommes, Doms, subs, porn stars and exhibitionists. We’ve also just posted a new gallery from the first radioSUZY1 show to have taken place in the new Speakeasy, “Hookers & Persians,” featuring “Hooker” author Mae Victoria and porn star/golfer Persia Monir, both riding the Monkey Rocker. The fantastic XXX photos of their wild rides are a rollicking erotic tribute to Masturbation Month. Enjoy them in all their explicit, stroke-inducing glory when you join the bloggamy.
Experience Guided Masturbation
Discover 8 Great Benefits of Masturbation
Visit Shopping Heaven for All Your Masturbation Month Needs & Desires
Ride the SYBIAN or Motorbunny
Drop Pocket Rockets, Not Patriot Missiles!
Enjoy a Pyrexions Curved Glass G-spot or P-spot Stimulating Dildo
You Got the Power: The Hitachi Magic Wand (plus the Vibrators & Other Lovers DVD)
Join The Speakeasy (Block Studios)
Come to a radioSUZY1 Saturday night live broadcast & after-party
Find Out About The Dr. Susan Block Institute for the Erotic Arts & Sciences
Read The 10 Commandments of Pleasure
Watch The Dr. Susan Block Show Live Stream FREE
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