Ramble On – #MAYsturbation & 5 Reasons I (Still!) Love Masturbation
#MAYsturbation! Masturbation May. International Masturbation Month. Many names, and many reasons to love it. I’ve mentioned it a couple times in other articles this month – but again, yeah! It’s real! I probably should have written about it earlier in the month because we’ve only got a week left, but life’s crazy and time is fake so who cares.
When I first heard the line “May is National Masturbation Month!” I was likely in high school, I remember sharing a Facebook graphic about it and having a good laugh because, well, May’s my birth month, and being a teenager – masturbation was funny. (I’m immature in a lot of ways. Despite my appreciation of masturbation on a serious level as a tool for having a healthy relationship with yourself and sex, I still laugh when I say “jack off”.) I’d assume having your birth month be deemed National (and later International) Masturbation Month would give most people a smile, but me being me and with masturbation as one of my favorite hobbies – I can’t think of a more fitting month for it to land in. (It also means I typically get to reap some good sex toy sales when I buy my own birthday presents. Bonus!)
With that said – International Masturbation Month has a more serious history, started after the forced resignation of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders in 1994. Why is that a big deal, and what does it have to do with masturbation? Well, after a speech at the UN World AIDS Day – an audience member asked Elders about masturbation – and the potential of it discouraging early sexual activity. Elders answered, like a badass – “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught”. (For the record, she’s right about that.) Then-president Bill Clinton however, didn’t agree – and it cost her her job. For y’know, daring to suggest that maybe, perhaps – masturbation should be included in sex education.
So – Good Vibrations, (a classic, sex-positive shop that you should probably, definitely go check out) got the National (later International) Masturbation Month ball rolling in 1995 – in protest of Elders firing, in support of the view that masturbation is a key part of our sexual health, and to make people talk about masturbation – y’know, in an honest, open, and positive way.
Essentially, International Masturbation Month is the center slice in a venn-diagram about my favorite things. (Smart women in powerful roles! Sex positivity! Education! The entire concept of masturbation!) I know there’s oodles of articles about why masturbation is great, why it’s important, and why sexual education is important – but this Ramble (On) is more of a love-letter to self pleasure.
Yes, damnit. It’s a goddamn love letter. (Punctuated with five-and-a-half reasons I personally, think masturbation kicks ass. Prefaced of course, with my own experiences with sex education, puberty, & discovering that masturbation’s awesome.)
For most of my life, masturbation has been one of my favorite things on the planet. I’m not exaggerating. It’s been the punchline of many an inside joke in friend groups throughout my life – because everyone and their mom seems to know about my penchant for it. There’s a reason my blog is in no way surprising to anyone that’s close to me. Once I learned about masturbation, I fell in love with the concept. Thanks in part to gURL.com, and their book – “Deal With It!”. It was one of the only places a preteen with a uterus could read the word “masturbation” in the early 00s & receive honest information about it & their bodies instead of just stumbling into porn. (If you don’t remember gURL, I’m so sorry.)
Thankfully my mother was always incredibly open with me and felt it was important that I knew what the fuck was going on with my body. So, she bought me plenty of books on it, in addition to talking to me about it all – the same way she was raised. Because you know – our sex education system is fairly lacking, and always has been.
…Seriously I can’t emphasize how important it was to have those talks at home. Public school gave me very little in the way of sex education, or even information on how periods or my own anatomy worked. I’ve talked to a few friends around the same age & they agree that the pancake video didn’t teach us much past how uncomfortable we could feel for thirty minutes at a time. Also, looking for that link I found out that video is from 1988. It was shown to me in class in 2004. Can we prioritize up to date, fact-based health classes & sex ed, please?
Jocelyn Elders was right, comprehensive sex education (including masturbation!) is important, y’all.
Anyways, upon learning it existed – I was essentially counting down the days until I would eventually start puberty and be able to actually masturbate. Which is fucking hilarious to me, honestly. As far as everything else goes – adulthood, actual-sex-with-another-person, having a career, a house, having kids? I wasn’t interested, and I’m still not very interested, masturbation just sounded “cool”, it was neat in theory that my body could do that. Sixth grade me really knew what the fuck was up. (This is honestly double funny if you’re reading this with the knowledge that I’m asexual. I’ll touch on my interest in partnered sex in a minute.)
Eventually, my patience, research & experimentation rewarded me with A Real Life Orgasm. (Yeah – I’ve always been research-based as far as anything sexual goes. Little about me changes with time.) I felt like I’d just acquired a new super power. I’ve essentially been chasing that the rest of my life, & it’s how masturbating became my #1 hobby – and favorite way to make myself feel powerful. (Let’s be honest, it still is, likely always will be.)
Now I can get how masturbation is new, cool, and exciting to someone going through puberty. But why’s it maintained this stranglehold on both my heart and my bits after all these years? What makes it so important? Let me count the ways.
1. As usual, learning kicks ass.
Don’t know what your bits look like, or what spot is best? Sometimes, I don’t. But it’s real easy to whip out a hand mirror, & figure it out. For folks with vulvas, there’s a bonus round of both navigating the inside & the outside bits. (I mean, technically everyone can figure out the inside/outside of their asses as well, but I’m going genitals-first, booty-is-a-bonus. & People with penises can still benefit from checking out their external bits!) Not sure what you’re into? Guess what, fucking yourself is a low stress situation where yup – you can finger those things out. I’m leaving that typo in, pretend I actually said finger on purpose – I truly meant figure. No judgement! Just learning! No worries!
Masturbation serves as an effective way to experiment & learn about ourselves without worrying about anyone else’s involvement. I don’t know about you – but I’d much rather figure out that I don’t like something by myself, than be in a partnered experience when I realize whatever new thing I wanted to try really sucks for me & my body. It’s saved me lots of uncomfortable encounters, and takes the guesswork out of sex for me.
So so so much of my blog, and my entire viewpoint on sex – relies on being informed. Whether it’s on your own preferences, safety, or just what a toy’s made out of. Knowledge is power, power is pizza – pizza is knowledge. The way masturbation can be shrouded in shame and talked about in vague, hushed voices really does everyone a disservice. We all deserve to know what’s up – and what’s up with ourselves. (Seriously, how is anyone supposed to have satisfying partnered sex if they’ve never flown solo?)
2. Orgasms don’t have to be the goal when you’re fucking yourself.
I, personally – have a 15% or less orgasm success rate with partnered sex. I love good partnered sex. But the pressure that can be involved from another party being hell bent on my orgasm is just. An absolute fucking nightmare, personally. I have no idea why it’s so common for people to view sex with a goal of both parties getting off, only rating it as “good” if that happens – but it kind of sucks, and it’s my biggest pet peeve about partnered sex. (Of course, it’s great when it does happen. But the pressure isn’t going to help anyone get there, or feel great about themselves. Even in a situation where the other party isn’t actively saying “I want you to get off” – there can be a bit of performance anxiety with partnered sex.)
Masturbating? I can do whatever I want. I’m not trying to impress anyone, and I’m not going to feel bad or disappoint anyone if I don’t have an orgasm. A lot of the time I don’t even set out like “Oh, I wanna have an orgasm”! I just want to enjoy the feelings leading up to it because it’s fucking fun. If I’m bored with it, I’m not going to offend myself if I want to stop.
(Also, if you’re goal-oriented to a fault, please work on unlearning that “the sex is only good if we both get off” pressure bullshit.)
3. Some of us aren’t huge fans of partnered sex. (I’m one of them.)
I know I literally just said I love good partnered sex but – it’s not something I want all the time. More often than not, I actively want to masturbate more than I want to sleep with anyone. There can be a ton of reasons for that! I mentioned a few paragraphs ago that I’m asexual, so personally partnered sex as a whole is more “I love and care about this person, and if they want to have sex I’d enjoy feeling close to them, sure” and “I have fucking nerve endings, Karen” than anything in my book.
On top of that – partnered sex for me even under the best circumstances means dodging triggers, exerting myself physically in some way or another, & struggling to get comfortable. Then you have the resulting cleanup of penetrative sex to think about and schedule in. Further, in the case of sex involving penises – there’s condoms & lube & worrying about using them properly. (I have a Princess And The Pea vagina. I’m allergic to latex, can’t do textured condoms, and less-than-perfect lube can send me straight to hell. Combining both of those things? Woof.) Overall it’s kind of a lot of work.
And then on top of all of that, I’m also typically worrying about how I look, whether what I’m doing feels good for the other person, not smelling/tasting/sounding weird, and whether or not I should have peed or got a fresh glass of water beforehand – and is it rude to ask to go to the bathroom now? And that’s without worrying about getting off at all! A good time, but not always a good time I’m up for, mentally or physically. (Yes, I’m aware I should be comfortable with my own body and how it looks/acts/etc. But that’s an ongoing process, get off my ass.)
You know who doesn’t care about any of those things? Me & my vibrator. I can lay here and eat chips, get up thirty times, change positions like it’s going out of style, and be at the least attractive angle possible without having to actively give a shit about it because it doesn’t matter if I’m masturbating. (Plus, washing sex toys is fairly simple if I’m exhausted.)
3 1/2. A note on the best of both worlds: mutual masturbation
This is my favorite ever. All the appeal of partnered sex without the stress of the last two bullet points! Whether it’s long distance or in the same room, mutual masturbation absolutely slaps. Also – it’s great as a learning tool, because you get to watch. Take notes! You get to find out what they like, (and vice versa) and everyone gets off. There’s literally no losing with this, it’s a great way to masturbate.
I’m a bit biased from a long-distance standpoint (I’m a long distance relationship person. It’s kind of my jam, not sure why not sure how.) But mutual masturbation has also played out well for me in situations where we might not be super comfortable touching each other, or be up for full blown penetrative sex – but we still want to get off and make out simultaneously.
Not convinced? You can read more good points about mutual masturbation here, too!
4. Masturbation can be a tool for body positivity, self love, & self care.
So, we’ve figured out what we like. We know what bits are where and how they react. Cool beans. I’ve written about using masturbation as part of the process of healing from sexual trauma – but I think anyone can benefit from it. (There’s plenty of articles out in the world about the actual, legitimate health benefits of masturbation as well, if that’s your jam. I’m not a doctor, though.)
Self care can be a bit of a buzzword (and a nightmare of capitalism, buy this skincare for your self care regimen or you don’t care about yourself!) but at its core self care is categorized as “something that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional & physical health”. Some parts about self care aren’t fun (calling ourselves out, eating well) some aren’t possible for me physically (working out regularly) and some just really don’t do anything for me (meditation, and bath bombs). Masturbation however let’s me multitask a bit. It’s an easy way I can manage to tend to both my mental and physical health at the same time. (Between masturbation as a grounding tool – forcing us to be in the moment, indulging in fantasies where I can feel “secure”, and the resulting cardiovascular workout.)
I also struggle a bit with body image (“a bit” is an understatement) and dysmorphic feelings surrounding how I look. (Or how I think I look.) I’ve also heard plenty of negative things about how I look naked. Of course, all of that is something that a good self-care regimen can help as well. I can throw on something that makes me feel “more-attractive-than-usual”, and set up a mirror or take photos if I feel so inclined. (I talk about “documenting” that a bit in this Putting Trauma to Bed piece. You can take nudes & lewds without having to open them to judgement from others, keeping them for yourself is fine & awesome.) Finding ways to appreciate your body & how it looks and moves is never a bad idea in my book.
& As far as mirrors go – you don’t have to get too Patrick Bateman with it. On one hand, they’re just helpful. (My mobility sucks, & using a mirror can help me place a Womanizer far more accurately & see that I’m doing something “right” from a more comfortable position.) On the other hand – there’s nothing wrong with being able to frame yourself in a sexy light, or thinking that you’re fucking hot. I’ve found plenty of little things I can appreciate about my body because I’ve been able to see angles I wouldn’t typically be able to from a first-person standpoint.
(You can also limit what you see! You don’t have to go all the way and install a ceiling mirror or buy a professional camera to see yourself in full-body high definition! Whatever you’re comfortable with. Using smaller mirrors and giving myself a more “detached” view is a lot easier for me than if I had to see my own face.)
Method aside – when you know what you need to feel good, it’s pretty powerful. Personally I end up both more connected with my physical self & more confident sexually because of it. No one needs to tell me that I’m hot (though I’m always appreciative of a compliment!) I’m already well aware. I know this makes me sound like I’m fully shoved up my own ass but being able to recognize that yes – you’re desirable, shouldn’t be a bad thing.
5. I don’t even have to give you a good reason to masturbate, or why I love it so much. It’s normal, and it’s fucking awesome.
Again, for whatever reason masturbation as a whole gets a weird coating of shame on top of it. You know what else does? Our bodies & sexuality in general – especially for women and femme-aligned folks. (I know all of those things apply to everyone male, female, or otherwise, but let’s be real. When it comes to masturbation it’s a bit more normalized for men, but women’s masturbation can be seen as freaky and obscene and they seem to get the shit end of the stick on a lot of things regarding their own bodies & sex.)
When I was younger – despite knowing it was a super normal and okay thing, I still wasn’t comfortable even acknowledging that I masturbated. Me, who loves masturbation more than I love dessert – but I’m a “girl”, so I’m not supposed to say that. In my first few serious relationships, I would avoid stating that I’d ever masturbated in my entire goddamn life – because Girls Don’t Do That™ and I didn’t want to deal with bringing up why I knew I liked certain things. (Of course, this has changed – to the extent that it’s a running gag with friends. I will unabashedly respond to delayed texts with “sorry, I was masturbating”. But I used to be a LOT more worried about saying that out loud!)
Fairly recently (let’s say in the past few years) I’ve had to deal with people I’ve chosen to date thinking there was something wrong with me for masturbating. (Before anyone asks – it was never because of the frequency & not because it was taking away from our relationship. Literally because their mindset was “girls don’t masturbate, you’re being weird, I don’t want to admit that you do that.”) Fully grown adults, that also masturbated without a second thought, thinking there was something wrong with me for having a vagina and enjoying masturbating! Do you get how nuts that sounds? But, that viewpoint is fairly normalized – we can say we’re “living in more sex-positive times than ever before!” but we still have a long way to go, and there’s still a great deal of learned shame surrounding masturbation – and women’s sexuality. & Yes – even as a full grown adult, writing a fucking sex blog. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that it doesn’t make me “weird”.
You might have noticed that I haven’t really used terms like “jacking off” or “flicking the bean” or whatever euphemisms people are using for most of this ramble. Why? Because we shouldn’t have to “soften” or make the word masturbation more “acceptable”. It’s acceptable on its own, as both a word and an act. (Sidenote – you know “euphemism” as a word specifically relates to referring to something “unpleasant or embarrassing”, right? Masturbation is neither of those things.)
Bottom line? You don’t have to have a reason to masturbate past just wanting to masturbate. You don’t have to explain why to anyone else. There’s no reason that sex with yourself (it’s totally sex, let’s be real.) should be viewed as less-than, or somehow more embarrassing than having sex with anyone else. Knowing your body & your preferences & making yourself feel good shouldn’t be embarrassing – it should be standard, and it should be celebrated. (Though if you don’t like masturbation, that’s fine too. Your own preferences matter . But avoiding it because of society’s fucked up view of self pleasure is more so what I’m speaking on here.)
I hope we can all take the values of International Masturbation Month to heart & can continue to view masturbation as something both awesome, and powerful – not shameful, or embarrassing – once May is over.
As always, here’s where I beg for your feedback! What do you think? Do you make a point to celebrate Masturbation Month? Are there any things you’d put on your own “5 Reasons” list past “that shit’s nice”? Is there any situation that can’t be addressed with an Aubrey Plaza .gif? Lemme know in the comments, and I’ll catch y’all next time.