I’ve had this post in my drafts for over a year. Not for any big reason, but I have a lot of thoughts and trying to not write 3,000 words has proved … challenging.
If you look at something long enough, it’s probably got a hint of ableism. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the phrase ‘masturbation boosts productivity’ (disregard the fact that a lot of ‘productivity talk’ is hustle culture on show) and take a second to think about how you’d feel if for some reason you couldn’t masturbate. It’s not obvious, but it’s there.
During 2020/21, masturbation has been put on a pedestal – something that everybody obviously wants to do because we’re all working from home *wink wink*. So, naturally, you’d want to masturbate, jerk off to your heart’s content and tickle the bean, right? Now, let’s look at pop culture, masturbation has almost become as synonymous as chilling out, getting work done or having ‘fun’.
May is a whole month where masturbation is continuously pushed into your awareness, and it feels like it’s gotten worse since the start of the pandemic. I’ve seen an uptick in posts, mentions, and Twitter threads about masturbation and orgasms. The message seems to be you must want to masturbate all the time because you’re stuck at home and either you’ve got nothing better to do, or you need to do it for ‘self-care’.
Masturbation is everywhere. Think for a moment, count how many times you’ve seen or heard about masturbation this week, can you count on one hand? Two? Probably not.
So, what is masturbation? The dictionary defines masturbation as “stimulation of the genitals to bring about sexual pleasure”. I’d go further and say masturbation can include touching of the body to incite sexual desire – nipples can be very pleasurable for some.
But what if masturbation isn’t pleasurable? What if it isn’t fun?
I masturbated a lot until the start of 2016. Due to ongoing health issues, medication and more I started to masturbate less and less – to the point where I basically stopped masturbating altogether. Yet, I still saw the masturbation rhetoric everywhere. Because of the messages that I was receiving and the fact I couldn’t masturbate, I felt like shit. I felt like I was broken. This feeling was then amplified due to pills that took away my sex drive and my physical inability to get in touch with my sexual side due to health issues. It didn’t help that for months I felt like I had to masturbate for my jobs – sex blogging and sex work. I thought there was something intrinsic to masturbating that would make me a better sex blogger and a better sex worker, and that belief was utter rubbish. Honestly, up until early last year, masturbation was a painful chore I avoided. Even when my body was screaming ‘no’ I felt like I had to carry on masturbating and spending hours trying to reach orgasm (and hurting my body in the process) because that was what I was supposed to do, right? Wrong. It took until late 2019 for me to realise I didn’t have to masturbate; I could simply stop if I wanted to.
Since I’m relatively open about my masturbation habits or lack thereof, I’ve discovered that being people see someone publicly announcing ‘no masturbation in 2020’ as a challenge. In response to this post where I said I’m not going to masturbate, I’ve had people recommend toys, positions, meditation apps and more – like it’s something they personally need to fix.
Do I think that masturbation can be empowering, relaxing, affirming and more? Yes, definitely. Season 2 of Sex Education showed a great example of the benefits of masturbation – look at Maureen (Headmaster Groff’s wife and Adam’s mother) who took back a part of herself that she’d lost through reconnecting with her sexuality again.
Personally, I think masturbation and the ability to achieve pleasure through masturbation is terrific, so long as the ability to masturbate and to ‘achieve pleasure’ from masturbation, it isn’t presumed to be the norm. Whilst society is opening up and talking more about masturbation, people still see the act of not masturbating as radical and unnatural, if my DMs are anything to go by.
Instead of censure, I want there to be open discussions about masturbation and for people to accept that masturbation, in any or a particular form or with a specific toy, may cause more harm than good.
If you’re still shaking your head and wondering why someone would willingly choose to forgo masturbation, here are just a handful of reasons to make you think:
- Gender not matching genitals.
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Antidepressants, and anti-epileptics, and a whole host of pills can reduce and sometimes completely eliminate sex drive.
- Severe chronic pain unrelated to the genitals might find the act somehow triggers pain in a different part of the body – for example tensing during orgasm might set off muscle spasms. Or maybe you’ve got a bulging disc that’s flaring (hello!).
- Painful genitals and sensations from vaginismus, endometriosis, and a whole host of medical conditions.
- Hormone imbalance and fluctuation.
- Living at home with parents or roommates.
- Chronic fatigue – after all, masturbation takes up a lot of effort.
- Ab muscles repairing from surgery.
- Inbuilt trauma from childhood because parents mocked masturbation.
- Sexual trauma.
One thing I really want to get across is that you don’t have to masturbate if you don’t want to. You’re not ‘broken, wrong or strange’. Masturbation isn’t the be-all and end-all, and there IS pleasure outside of the dictionary definition of masturbation. Personally, I find being mentally turned on through reading erotica and basking in the feeling of being turned on can be very pleasurable.
If you choose to dabble in pleasure, make sure what you’re doing is pleasurable for you, not anyone else. You matter. What you find pleasurable matters even if it’s just taking some time out to sip some tea and read a fiction book.
Go at your own pace, if you even want to go at all.
I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic, so I might revisit it at another time.