and Sisters, Lovers and Sinners, let us come together to explore
the holy and unholy mysteries of masturbation... Come, let us
May is National
Masturbation Month, having been so declared by those fine, fun-loving
jill-off gals at Good Vibrations (founded by Joani Blank), along
with the Godmother of Masturbation herself, Dr. Betty Dodsen.
bonobo masturbating with ball
at the San Diego Zoo.
Photo: Dr. Susan Block
bonobo masturbating in the
Congo. Photo: Franz Lanting.
From Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape
to have a National Masturbation Month? Since just about everybody
plays sexual solitaire at least sometimes, it's virtually the
nation's - and the world's - preferred leisure past-time anyway.
Why, it didn't even make Senator Rick Santorum's (R-Pa) List of
Naughty Sex Acts that the Government Should be Allowed to Break
into Your Bedroom and Bust You For.
doesn't rank up there with Rick the Stick's beloved "man-on-dog"
action. Still, all too few of us private wankers are willing to
admit publicly that we indulge. Here in our Land of the So-Called
Free, we have plenty of Gay Pride and Leather Pride, even Libertine
Pride, but not much in the way of Wanker Pride. After all, "sex
for one," as harmless and healing as we now know it to be, is
still condemned by many as an illicit, shameful act. Thus, most
of us keep our single-handed pleasures under the covers and in
Brothers and Sisters, Liars and Fibbers, who will testify to the
truth of masturbation?
word "testify" tells us a little something about masturbation
and truth, coming, as it does, from the
same Latin root as the words "testament," "testimony," and "testicles."
back in Old Testament times, when our forefathers swore an oath,
they didn't put their hands on the Bible, because these were Bible
times, and the Bible hadn't been written yet. So, when they testified,
they put their hands on their testicles. That's right, they swore
by their family jewels! Telling the truth (for a man) was assured
by the public act of squeezing, stroking or gently cupping one's
do like your ancestors,
do like your Old Father Abraham, grab your balls and testify!
Grab 'em right now, Brother! Don't grab 'em too hard. But don't
be too soft on yourself either. And Sister, you just grab your
holy vulva right where it feels good. Feel the power, the glory
and the truth of solo sexual revelation! Finger yourself with
joy! Stroke yourself into rapture! Surrender to self-pleasure.
Testify to the truth of auto-erotic ecstasy. Testify and be healed
of stress and frustration...
back in Old Testament times,
when our forefathers swore an oath,
they didn't put their hands on the Bible,
because these were Bible times,
and the Bible hadn't been written yet.
So, when they testified, they put their
hands on their testicles. That's right,
they swore by their family jewels!
Telling the truth (for a man)
was assured by the public act of
squeezing, stroking or gently cupping
matter, Brother Jack? Are you embarrassed,
Sister Jill? Feel silly? Guilty? Naughty? Baad? Don't
you know that if God had intended you not to masturbate, he would
have made your arms shorter? No, Jesus didn't
say that, and neither did Mohammed. George Carlin did. But it
rings with more truth than most psalms.
is such a natural, pleasurable, healthful, free, convenient and
virtually harmless act as masturbation so embarrassing? Ball-fondling
oaths aside, 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. Back again to those Bible times,
when Onan was struck dead by God for "spilling his seed upon the
ground" (which was actually more of a case of willful coitus interruptus
Then, it was thought that if folks were masturbating - that is,
having "sex for fun" instead of channeling their entire sex drive
into reproducing the tribe - they wouldn't "be fruitful and multiply."
That is, they wouldn't spawn enough children to work their harvests
and go to war against opposing tribes. You could call this ancient
tribal taboo against masturbation and other forms of nonreproductive
sex the Mother of All Membership Drives.
Christians went on to further denigrate the joys of self-diddling
by equating sexual pleasure with pure evil. Though Jesus himself,
according to the Gospels, said remarkably little about sex, 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.
Unlike a so-called
"natural sin" such as fornication, bigamy or adultery, masturbation
was a "sin against nature." What made masturbation "unnatural" is
anybody's guess, since nature shows us many creatures having sex
for one just for fun.
course, 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." No wonder so many feign sleep while
Repositories of expiation for
a natural sin like fornication was considered fairly minor, and
could be absolved 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 psychic power over an uneducated, frightened populace. In
other words, they had 'em by the balls! Since everybody masturbated,
everybody could be made to feel guilt, shame and the profound
need for expiation, from whom else but the Church Fathers?
the centuries, frightening superstitions built up, e.g., that
indulging in a little self-love caused warts, blindness, insanity
and hair on the palms, not to mention, of course, eternal damnation
in hell (though if one could rub off in hell, that might make
it bearable - beat your meat in the heat).
there's the idea that masturbation is wasteful. This humdinger
has its roots in the widespread misconception 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 more true: 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.
course, Brother Jack, if you ejaculate five times a day, you will
not shoot more than a gasp and a dribble by the fifth time. So
if you want to maximize your spunk output, keep your hands off
your treasure for 48 hours. That's enough time to build up your
maximum load. Wait much longer than that, and you won't be building
up anything but an unholy case of blueballs.
women don't produce semen, most folks also used to believe that
female masturbation was debilitating. Two of the biggest anti-masturbation
activists of the19th century were Sylvestor Graham, designer of
the Graham Cracker, and John Kellogg, creator of Kellogg's Corn
Flakes, the consumption of which was supposed to suppress the
sex drive (though, of course, it never did). Kellogg called beating
off "the vilest, the basest and the most degrading act that a
human being can commit."
you know that if God had
intended you not to masturbate,
he would have made your arms shorter?
modern science has disproved all these superstitions. Experts
consider masturbation to be a normal, safe sexual activity, not
to mention a superb cardiovascular workout. Still, in many circles,
self-pleasuring is unmentionable. American Surgeon General Dr.
Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign when she mentioned masturbation
in the context of safe sex education. That's one thing I will
never forgive Bill Clinton for doing. Maybe if he'd taken Dr.
Elders' advice instead of firing her, he'd have sidestepped being
sideswiped by the Religious Right.
of anti-masturbation mania, there does exist a bit of positive
folklore on the wonders of whacking off. According to the Greeks,
masturbation was a divine gift. Hermes revealed it to Pan, whose
love for a nymph was unrequited, demonstrating how stroking the
salami could be a superb rape prevention
technique. Pan then taught the shepherds, probably so they wouldn't
bother their sheep so much. 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."
Twain, in between literary masterpieces, spoke of masturbation
with satiric, truthtelling eloquence: "to the lonely it is company;
to the forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and impotent it is
a benefactor; they
that are penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this
Truman Capote: "the nice thing about masturbation is you don't
have to dress up for it." Flogging the hog is so, well, convenient.
taboos never die; they just mutate with the times. Now, instead
of fearing masturbation will make us blind, we worry that it will
brand us as lonely or desperate, or as a pathetic, oversexed sex
you can become addicted to masturbation. Anything really good
in life is addictive. Jerkin' your own gherkin can be so damn
convenient that you don't want to bother with the rigors of dating,
or communicating with your spouse, or whatever 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.
could be absolved only by bishops
or their lieutenants. Thus, the
Church Fathers shrewdly used the
masturbation taboo to gain deep
psychic power over an uneducated,
frightened populace. In other words,
they had 'em by the balls!
self-love is a kind of love. Sometimes, especially after a bad
break-up, or when you're sick, or stressed, or separated from
your lover, it's the best kind of love.
If you can't
shake your shame, you can always eroticize it. You probably do
this naturally. Sex is intrinsically perverse in our anti-sex
society, and many of us need to feel bad to feel good. The naughtier
we feel about masturbating, the better masturbation feels. People
that grow up tortured by religious dictums against "self-abuse"
often become some of the world's most passionate masturbators.
So, how about
you, Brother Jack and Sister Jill? Will you testify? How does
it feel when you masturbate? Is it wild? Is it wonderful? Is it
weird? Is it simply a great relief? Do you get a mystical, spiritual
sense of fulfillment? A primitive, animal sense of contentment?
Does it give you energy - or put you to sleep? Does it make you
feel alone? Or an ecstatic link in the Great Chain of Sexual Being?
Does it make you feel powerful? Peaceful? Beautiful? Bountiful?
Biological? Do you masturbate to be safe, or do you do it for
the danger? Do you enjoy an audience, or would you rather be the
audience? Do you like to use props? Vibrators? Dildos? Erotica?
Porn? Phone sex? Bondage gear? Aromatic oils? Special music? Fetish
objects? How do you touch yourself? Quick strokes or long? One
hand or two? Lube or natural juices? What do you think about when
you masturbate? Do you fantasize, or do you just feel the sensations?
Do you feel great right up until orgasm, then feel guilty, silly,
lonely? Or do you feel even better after you've come, as you float
down a stream of bliss?
our feelings about it, masturbation is almost always our first
sexual activity. Even in utero, we touch ourselves for relaxation
and pleasure. As babies, we play with all parts of ourselves,
but our genitals are especially exciting, because of the intensity
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 for it, just warned me to cool it every
so often, especially 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.
Mom's pragmatic attitude didn't denigrate my sexuality. "Suzy,"
she'd scold when she'd catch me petal pushing, "Take your hands
out of your pants. Your hands are dirty and it's clean down there!"
And she was right, at least about my hands being dirty, probably
sticky with peanut butter and jelly or something I'd pulled out
of my nose. She wasn't Diogenes, but at least Mom said it was
"clean down there," which I now realize was a rather sex-positive
way of attempting to regulate my masturbatory activities, especially
in the 1960's.
there's the idea that
masturbation is wasteful...
the widespread misconception
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 more true:
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.
It may feel
like playing hooky, but masturbation is educational. It teaches
you about your own body, what kinds of touch arouse you, what
positions relax you, what fantasies stimulate you, what props
really get you hot. It helps you to find your mental and physical
rhythm and style for maximum orgasmic pleasure.
may be more romantic, but it's also more nerve-wracking. Unless
you're totally self-absorbed, you're probably going to concentrate
more on your lover's pleasure than your own. During masturbation,
you don't have to worry about pleasing or impressing anybody but
yourself. That way, you can relax and explore, learning all kinds
of stuff about your erotic responses that you can use to become
a better lover and a more orgasmic, sexually satisfied person.
never done kegels or PC (pubococcygeus) muscle exercises, masturbation
is the perfect time to try them. Like any kind of physical exercise,
kegels take practice and concentration, tough to muster when you're
making love. Before or during masturbation, you can easily practice
squeezing and releasing your PC muscles, making your orgasms longer
and stronger, or multiple, and more under your control. Lots of
quick-on-the-trigger guys learn to manage their tendency toward
premature ejaculation this way. Many young women who can't climax
with their also-young, inexperienced lovers experience their first
orgasms while petting their own kitties.
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."
I had my first orgasm. Through the power of masturbation! That's
right, Brothers and Sisters, Lovers and Sinners. It's my turn
I was 19,
a sophomore at Yale, and I'd never had an orgasm. Oh, I'd had
sex several times, mainly with my high school boyfriend, and he'd
had plenty of orgasms. But not me. And I'd done plenty of masturbating
with those "dirty hands" of mine, but not yet to orgasm. I did
have a few involuntary climaxes when I went horseback riding or
did kip-ups in gymnastics class. But no full-fledged voluntary
So, I was
dating a guy named Steven Van Der Tak, a gorgeous young math genius,
tall and sensuously lean, with long curly blonde hair and David
Hockney blue eyes, a Nordic God in a Yale Crew sweatshirt. The
only problem was that Steven was very shy, and since I was fairly
shy too, our evenings tended to be pretty dull. Nevertheless,
I was infatuated with his dazzling athletic beauty and dizzying
numerical brilliance. And one night, when I let him stay over
in my tiny little dormroom in my tiny little single bed, we had
I don't remember
much about the sex. I think it wasn't bad, but I know it wasn't
orgasmic. When Steven left in the morning for class, I stayed
in bed feeling unsatisfied as usual. Lazily, I stroked myself,
picking up where Steven had left off. I decided I wanted to go
*all the way* this time, but didn't know what to do exactly. Also,
I felt fairly stupid, embarrased, dirty. I thought about what
Mom had said, and I washed my hands.
Then I slipped
back into my tiny little dormroom bed and let my thoughts skip
over to what I had read, when I was in somebody else's dormroom,
in one of those little how-to masturbation books (Liberating Masturbation,
now Sex for One by Dr. Betty Dodson) that were passed around through
feminist circles in those days. As my thoughts wandered, so did
my hands. I relaxed and breathed deeply like the book had instructed,
squeezing and releasing my PC muscles. I breathed deeper, stroking
and playing with myself like I'd played since I was a little girl,
but this time I pushed myself farther, squeezing and releasing,
rubbing and stroking. My thoughts wandered further, to Steven's
beautiful hair, those gorgeous eyes looking right through me,
his sexy body doing just what I wanted him to do. And I breathed
deeper and deeper, squeezing and releasing, wiggling and tickling,
poking and pulling, licking my fingers and feeling the power,
breathing deeper and deeper, rubbing faster and faster, squeezing
and releasing, until, lo and behold, the squeezing released, and
I had an orgasm.
full-fledged, voluntary orgasm! I remember feeling awed and amazed,
as if I'd passed through a rite of passage right there on my tiny
little dormroom bed. And of course, I had. I remember feeling
as if I'd been given a gift from God, or the Goddess, or Nature,
a pure pleasure that I didn't have to work for, didn't cost any
money, didn't have any calories, that was so simple and relaxing,
so explosive, yet so gentle. And I remember knowing I was hooked,
that at that point, after 19 years of life on earth, I had become
orgasmic. I knew that no matter what else happened, the rest of
my life would include explosions of pleasure, that pretty much
whenever I wanted, I could experience a little bit of heaven on
drifting for hours in that tiny little dormitory bed as if I were
Cleopatra floating down the Nile, fanned by my sensuous, adoring
slaves on my perfumed barge, sailing toward Antony, my romantic
destiny (we were studying "Antony and Cleopatra" in my Shakespeare
class). And I remember looking at the clock and realizing that
if I didn't get out of bed that minute, I'd miss that Shakespeare
class, so I threw on my clothes, picked up my books and left,
a New Orgasmic Woman, thanks to the powerful pleasure of masturbation.
and Sisters, Lovers and Sinners... Make love to someone you love
tonight, even if that someone is you. Happy Masturbation Month!
Give yourself a hand
You deserve it!
Dr. Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host
of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments
of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
all hate mail, love letters, commentary, questions and confessions
to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read other articles by Dr Susan Block (click on the balls)
It Always Rains In California: All About Female Ejaculation
Springtime For Sex And God
The bigO Can Be Yours
Bush's P.O.W. Porn