By Sharon Gordon
Johannesburg - I try to keep up to date with special days of the year and special months that celebrate a variety of causes. This month is uber special in my line of work. It is masturbation month and on 28th Menstrual Hygiene Day. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. November is AIDS Awareness Month. Masturbation May, an international celebration of self-love.
National Masturbation Month was created by the Good Vibrations retail store in San Francisco following the firing of U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders in 1994 for suggesting that information about masturbation should be included in sex education courses. When Lola Montez gets big it wants to be Good Vibrations.
Although it began as a form of social activism, a way to speak out about masturbation and its benefits, Masturbation May has since evolved into a highly successful campaign to promote the business of masturbation—vibrators, “how-to” guides and educational workshop—as part of a healthy and happy sex life. It is yet to catch on in South Africa, I’d love to see us march down the streets celebrating our beautiful bodies and pleasure.
Masturbation has a long history of stigma, shame and misconceptions. In Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, historian Thomas W. Laqueur argues that ideas about modern masturbation emerged quite powerfully in the early 18th century in the form of a new “disease” that required medical intervention.
Masturbation was thought to cause blindness, madness and a host of other physical ailments and moral defects. By the mid-19th century there was a booming anti-masturbation market, including devices such as erection alarms, penis cases, sleeping mitts and hobbles to prevent girls from spreading their legs. And if you think that those days are over you are very much mistaken!
This week there was disturbing news about Roe V Wade being overturned and regardless of your position on abortion the alarm bells should be deafening. We’re going backwards and not in a good way.
Masturbation has undergone a slow but steady transformation. In the 1960s and ’70s, masturbation was embraced by the women’s movement as a vital part of female sexuality and a steppingstone to sexual liberation.
Feminists challenged Freud’s theory of sexual development, which posited that both masturbation and clitoral orgasms were infantile. They wrote books, held workshops and started vibrator businesses in an effort to reclaim masturbation as a feminist issue, turning the previous “anti-masturbation” market completely on its head.
Masturbation Month is a by-product of these and other efforts to recast masturbation in positive terms. The purpose behind Masturbation Month is to break free from some of these stereotypes and misconceptions and to create a space where masturbation is not seen as a lesser option [but] just another option on the buffet table of sex.
There are many reasons to masturbate. It’s fun. It feels good. It relieves stress. And it’s likely the safest sex you’ll ever have. Masturbation is also one of the best ways to learn about your body and discover what turns you on.
Masturbation is an amazing way to discover what you like, what works and what doesn’t.
All our bodies are unique and knowing what feels good is an important part of being able to communicate your likes and dislikes to a partner. It helps individuals take responsibility for their own pleasure, so they aren’t solely dependent on a partner, or partners, for meeting their sexual needs.
And finally, there’s truth to the adage, “Use it or lose it.” Evidence suggests that when people experience prolonged periods without engaging with their sexual responses, those responses diminish. Solo sex is a wonderful way to keep bodies happy, healthy and responsive.”
When I started Lola Montez 20 years ago a woman uttering the word ‘masturbation’ was a big deal. Now I just get the sense that it is slightly better but nowhere near where the subject needs to be.
With men, there’s just an assumption they’ve always masturbated. They talk about it openly and many have participated in ‘circle jerks’.
With women it’s a different story. We are hesitant and embarrassed to talk about masturbation. For some, although certainly not all, it’s something they’ve never done or even thought about doing. I know because of the response I get when I tell them what my day job is!
There is still so much shame around buying a vibrator for solo and couple play that I wonder if we are ever going to normalise the subject. This month celebrating self-love, I’m going to share tips and techniques, so buckle up for the …ride!