** a bit late since this is the first of June but, hey, we’ll consider it a wrap up!*
Wank, jerk off, beat off, choke the chicken, diddle, rub one out, drain the main vein—we all know countless euphemisms for masturbation. In fact, in one online list I counted over 350 euphemisms for “male” masturbation and about 150 “female.” I’m not sure why there should be so many more terms for men than women, except that, perhaps, male masturbation is a little more “accepted” than female? Or perhaps simply talked about more. “More” being a relative term, since the activity has long been been cloaked in secrecy and shame. No one is supposed to actually do it, much less talk about it. Those that engage in self-pleasure have been told that are going to hell, will grow hair in strange places, go blind or insane. It’s been blamed for impotence, a drop in desire for “real” sex, mental illness and infertility. (For a detailed discussion about the origin of the word itself, see Michele’s excellent post “WotW: Masturbation.”)
Even talking about it caused one high profile government official to lose her job: in 1995 then-Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign for suggesting that masturbation should be discussed as part of young peoples’ sex education.
In protest, Good Vibrations started National Masturbation Month. According to their website, “We started National Masturbation Month to raise awareness, and because we wanted to highlight the importance of masturbation for nearly everyone: it’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s free, it’s pleasurable and it helps people get to know their bodies and their sexual responses. Since practically everyone masturbates, but few people talk about it, we created National Masturbation Month, a month-long celebration recognizing the many ways we can pleasure ourselves.“ You can even participate in a fundraiser, the 12th Annual Masturbate-a-thon at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture (and other places nation- and world-wide) where awards are given for such competitions as “Longest Squirt Distance”, “Longest Time Spent Masturbating”, and “Most Orgasms.” Funds raised are dedicated to supporting sex education and sexual safety.
Personally I have a love/hate relationship with masturbation. While I love to do it, even typing the word makes me blush, and the thought of doing it in front of a partner causes embarrassment. But because part of my kink is that I enjoy that hint of erotic embarrassment, it kind of works for me to feel that. My partner even used that as part of our play by ordering me to participate in a fellow blogger’s “Wankfest Challenge” to masturbate at least once a day every day of the month. The fact that he then made me do it front of him, and took pictures while I did, made it even more of a challenge for me—and, subsequently—hotter.
That said, I don’t believe that masturbation should be something we are ashamed of doing. Surveys show that 70-95% of adults—male and female—masturbate regularly, and in spite of the scare tactics that some people would use, there are absolutely no health risks involved in masturbation. In fact, I am a firm believer that women who know how to pleasure themselves are more likely to have pleasurable sex with their partners. It only follows that women who know their own bodies and its responses best will be able to show their partners how to please them as well.
It was with that thought in mind that I encouraged my then-16 year old daughter to masturbate. I don’t know how the conversation started, but once she had broached the subject, I did not let my own complicated relationship with masturbation inform my responses to her. Matter-of-factly I told her that she should learn her body’s responses and learn to pleasure herself before she embarked on a sexual relationship with someone else, and that she should feel no shame in doing so. I didn’t go so far as to buy a vibrator for her, as Dr. Laura Berman suggested on Oprah last year, but if she asked me to help her with purchasing one, I certainly would do so, and the first thing that I would suggest would be to visit a website like Eden Fantasys, where she could read articles and reviews on various toys. I have found the recommendations made by others who have used the toys indispensible.
I might also point her to several articles I found online, such as this one in About.com, about how to masturbate. I first learned to bring myself to orgasm through masturbation by reading about it in my sister’s volume of The Hite Report on Female Sexuality, so I am not surprised—and quite pleased—to find how-to articles out there on the internet.
I don’t think we will ever be able to de-stigmatize masturbation entirely. And perhaps, if you are like me, it is the very “naughtiness” of it that heightens the pleasure in it. But even if that is the case, I think it can only lead to a healthier attitude about our bodies and our sexuality to promote and raise awareness about masturbation as a healthy, natural activity.