The Taboos and Virtues of Masturbation
From repression to rebellion, some thoughts on masturbation
Waxing philosophical on the topic of sex with one’s self
Exercising sole dominion over one’s mind and body in healthy harmony with internal desires, influences and proclivities of character, culture and genetics may well be the purest form of individual freedom in this or any other dimension of corporeal life known to human beings at this or any other time.
Viewed in the light of an esoteric perspective, the freedom to masturbate (or not) might well be considered one of the purest forms of intimate, uninhibited self expression which encompasses and embraces healthy sexual empowerment, expression and exploration while manifesting ecstatic rebellion against the repression of one’s own right to a self-determinate existence by other persons and institutions seeking to moderate or vanquish such personal freedoms.
I was very young when I was ‘caught’ discovering for myself the singular pleasure of what I would later learn, quite abruptly and punctuated with a single slap across my face, was considered taboo by my mother, and her generation of edifying and stigmatizing clergy and shrinks.
The outer message was painfully clear; however, the inner messages my body persisted in sending were equally persuasive.
Doing ‘it’ was like being swept up in a cosmic spell that ended in being showered with a pail of glittering stardust. Getting caught doing ‘that’ was like suddenly becoming the vilest deviant to ever walk the earth. My humiliation was complete.
Unrelenting and innocent curiosity and self exploration became a shameful secret and my personal rebellion, now, not only was I ensnared in the confusing hormonal grip of puberty and sexual identity it had become mixed with the taboo of questioning sexual desire and the fear of being cast in the light of perversion.
Thus, like so many, I began a lifelong tug of war for a healthy and expressive sexual identity despite the weighty shadow of moral and social condemnation, which started with keeping the church and my parents OUT of my bedroom and my head. My personal freedom and rightful pursuit of a naturally healthy sexual experience and expression depended on it.
Hands Off! A Historical Hard Right Turn Into Social Conservatism
Masturbating was not always discouraged as a singular act of wanton perversion. The early people of earth considered expressive human sexuality a symbol of abundance in nature. The art and writings of prehistoric times clearly include rock paintings of persons in the act and ancient Egypt references depict masturbation as a creative and even magical act when performed by a god. The ancient Greeks regarded masturbation as a healthy sexual practice and as a sort of relief valve to safeguard against the unhealthy build up of sexual frustrations.
The sexual practice of masturbation really got a bad rap in 1716 when Dutch theologian Dr. Balthazar Bekker published a pamphlet titled: “Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, And All Its Frightful Consequences, In Both Sexes, Considered: With Spiritual and Physical Advice To Those Who Have Already Injured Themselves By This Abominable Practice.” and this attitude persisted into the Victorian age when masturbation was thought to lead to impaired morals, depression, social failure, epilepsy, tuberculosis, blindness, insanity, sterility, and early death. Since masturbation was considered a dangerous practice, many “cures” were developed to eliminate it. Men of the time were encouraged to wear straightjacket pajamas or erection alerts to discourage handling of the penis.
Not only does bad news travels fast, apparetnly it has a long shelf life too; thus, the black cloud cast over the safest sex act known to mankind hasn’t quite dissipated, enduring and even surviving the sexual revolution of the 1960’s to modern day.
Forbidding Nature’s Gifts
Only mankind would have the arrogance to forbid what Mother Nature so sweetly grants as small concession to the often mournful wretchedness of our mortal existence.
Beginning and developing in the womb, masturbation is a naturally occurring and healthy function of human sexuality. In 1972 The American Medical Association officially declared the practice to be ‘normal’. Personal curiosity and intimate exploration of our bodies in response to our own stimulating touch is clearly a birthright and sole prerogative of the individual. Thomas Szasz states the shift in scientific consensus as “Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure.”
Studies show, 85% of women masturbate while 94% of men readily admit to practicing regular masturbation. Perhaps another time I’ll explore the historical and overt oppression of women’s sexuality by a patriarchal society generally fearful of a women’s sexual power but, suffice to say, the message and mission of suppressing the practice of masturbation in general was made clear for both men and women, though the reason for each may be wholly divergent and undoubtedly sexist.
Why does masturbation still remain shrouded in moral and social taboos resulting in large numbers of people suffering shame, guilt and anxiety over pleasuring their own bodies even in the light of the official scientific concensus’ un-condemnation? The answer lies in part, in the enduring proscription of human sexual conduct by cultural values, religious and moral beliefs and even mythically dangerous and preposterous physical side effects such as, blindness, impotence, insanity and hairy palms.
It seems willful ignorance and strategic denial of the scientific data surrounding and supporting climate change by those who view themselves as “above scientific method and concensus” conveniently extends to all sorts of controversial topics including masturbation.
Consider some of the positive benefits of masturbation on physical and mental health
Anxiety: Reduces anxiety (except if you’re anxious about masturbating, you’ll need to get over that hurdle first)
Frigidity or low sex drive: Studies and health professionals recommend masturbation to raise libido in post-menopausal women.
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces intances of cervical infections
Safe sex: Masturbation poses the lowest health risks of any sex act
Fertility problems can be mitigated by masturbation
Eases menopause symptoms
Promotes healthy attitudes towards sex
Prevents carcinogenic substances from building up in a man’s prostate
Still somewhat ticklish on the subject? Try singing about it in the shower
Here are the top four songs that are totally about masturbation to get you started.
4. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors — (Songwriter David Fenton explains: “Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn’t expect to.)
3. “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper
2. “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls
1. “Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello
© S Lynn Knight, 2017