The following is just one of a bunch of pieces I’ve been working on for a project tentatively titled Pornotopia: The Ins and Outs and Ins and Outs of Sex and Erotica. Enjoy!
Maybe I'm weird ... okay, I KNOW I'm weird -- but, come on, I'm not THAT
Weird. I just can't suss it, can't comprehend it, can't wrap my five or so pounds of wrinkled gray matter around the idea that keeps cropping up in my writerly life these days: the notion that masturbation ain't okay.
Part of my writing life used to be answering questions from people about sex. I answered questions for quite a few sites, and before that, I was before that I was part of San Francisco Sex Information (415-989-SFSI or www.sfsi.org), a fabulous group of people that answer sexuality questions from anyone, anytime.
People have a lot of questions, it seems. There are lots of issues and discomforts: am I too small, too big, weird, 'normal', gay, a virgin...? But the one that really makes me scratch my head, and sometimes even frightens me is this one, asked in a zillion different ways: "Is is okay to masturbate?"
I know that people have issues. I have quite a few myself, but honestly, you're worried about masturbation? Maybe I shouldn't be writing about this; I feel like a blind man trying to understand color just trying to wrap my mind around how it could be a serious question -- or maybe I'm Van Gogh trying to describe a sunset to Ray Charles.
"I want to masturbate but every time I do I feel like I'm gay or something. All my friends make jokes about it and say how disgusting and gay masturbating is and that they'd never do it. I go along with there jokes but I never make any myself. Should I listen to my friends? Is masturbation something that only gay people do?" writes one kid, looking for answers.
Where does this come from, this fear, hatred, and homophobia? Are people like this so scared of their bodies that they resort to hysterical fear? It's easy to try and look around at bad parents, bad religion, hypocrisy, and so on. It's easy to try and dig for some kind of blame: we're a blame-based culture, we cling to illusions of cause and effect all the time.
But there's something here that really bothers me more than whatever it is that we might consider attributing this fear of masturbation to, something that I think is more important. Something that bothers me even more than the homophobia in the remarks I quoted above.
You see, the nature of this fear and hatred of masturbation -- it's more than a fear of sex, it's more than the terror of brimstone and demons. There's something frightening there, something a lot more base, a lot more fundimental. It's not really a cause, I think, but rather a symptom of something more sad and frightening. I see it in another comment by another letter writer, who writes "Why do people masterbate? I mean, masterbating is so sick."
What it is is a fear of what masturbation is all about. Think about it. What, after all, is the nature of masturbation? Autoerotic stimulation is the usual sex-ed buzz phrase, but there's something to it that goes beyond just stroking your happy bits 'til you lose control of a good percentage of your voluntary nervous system. Cousin-fucking ignorants call it 'sex-abuse.' 'Spilling seed' is the pet phrase of the Bible-thumpers. But what is masturbation, really, at its core?
Why do so many people feel bad about loving themselves? Why is it that they hold their genitals in their hand and feel shame and self-loathing? Why is it an insult to say "Go fuck yourself"? Why is "quit jerking me off" an expression of displeased annoyance? I've sought answers, but I'm still not sure. Perhaps it's a symptom of a deeper underlying malaise, a spiritual canker sore that flares up whenever we treat ourselves too well. Heaven knows that if we jerk off too much, we'll probably never leave the house... Civilization as we know it would come to a screeching halt. Gotta make sure we make it shameful.
Well, I've got news for ya, folks: I jerk off. As I've written: "Like it, love it, do it a lot." It's wonderful, it's glorious, it's a cheap night out. It's not "rather than sex", but rather a different kind of sex -- sometimes when I jerk off I wish for a partner, but other times when I'm with someone I'd much rather jerk off. There's no pressure to perform, there's no concern about the "You want me to do what?" syndrome. It's relaxing, stimulating, and fun .... I just wish the damned byproduct being a boy) wasn't so sticky and hard to get out of sheets. Small price to pay I guess.
I want to start a movement, a self-love movement. Yes, masturbation should be taught -- not technique (because that's something we all need to do for ourselves) but that the only real problem with it is cleaning up afterwards (you lucky girls). You won't go mad, grow hair on ypour palms, go to hell, become gay, run out of sperm, or any other hysterical fear. The worst that can happen is that you might give yourself Indian burn (use some lube, people, can't stress that enough!), and the best that can happen? Well, many people agree with me that it's a good thing to feel mind-blowing joy and loose control of major voluntary nervous responses. It's a very good thing. It's pleasurable, it's self-love: it's being able to be good to yourself, to give yourself joy.
That's it, more than the stroking, the vibrators, the butt-plugs, the porno -- it's getting down there with your own body, to touch yourself and give yourself what we depend too much on other people for: to make us feel good. Don't you deserve to feel loved, desirable, and happy? That's what jerking off is, that's what the nature of masturbation is: making love to yourself.
Love yourself. Aren't you worth it?