It’s officially Masturbation Month! While we in the pleasure industry tend to celebrate masturbation on the daily, we also recognize that visibly dedicating an entire month to the topic serves as a necessary reminder that self-pleasure can be an integral and accessible aspect of everyone’s sexuality.
For this post, we asked Amara Purlle explore rapidly changing attitudes towards self-love and why it’s still so important to celebrate going solo.
The year was 1991. I was lounging in a friend’s room after school, passively watching videos on MTV, when I was lured out of mindless notebook doodling by a smoky, defiant voice very clearly stating her ambitions: “When I think about you, I touch myself.” Meanwhile, 13-year-old me was like, “Wait...what did she say? She can say that? What does she mean by that??” In the space of three minutes and 48 seconds, Chrissy Amphlett of Divinyls kickstarted some necessary dialogue around masturbation.
It wasn’t until a year later when the 1992 Seinfeld episode “The Contest” gave that dialogue some more traction. I like to think it was particularly because Elaine was of equal measure with her male peers in the bet over who among their group could abstain from masturbating. (None of them could.) But even introducing it to wider public discourse didn’t keep former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders from being fired in 1994. While speaking at a United Nations conference on AIDS, she was asked whether promoting masturbation to young people would deter them from engaging in riskier sexual activity. Her response: “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.” The incident and her subsequent termination are the subject of the documentary Sticky: A (Self) Love Story.
Shout out to anyone who grew up dealing with guilt and shame over what we know is a perfectly normal and natural curiosity about our own bodies, and an important step in our development as well-rounded human beings. In honor of National Masturbation Month, we proudly celebrate self-love, self-exploration, and why it’s now more important than ever to eliminate that guilt and shame from your Party of One.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BODY TALK
We all have buttons, a.k.a. erogenous zones, which come from a heap of hormones thrown into the mix. And along the way we discover our personal preference for pushing certain buttons. The hormones our bodies produce that set the conditions for Hurricane Feelings include:
- Estrogen - secreted by the ovaries and regulates your menstrual cycle
- Progesterone - also secreted by the ovaries, maintains the uterine lining thickened by estrogen
These hormones are also what create the urges when we feel like getting down, and also part of how you and I happened. This completely natural stage in human development creates fertile ground for self-exploration and discovery while your reproductive system does its thing. It’s a prime opportunity, if not responsibility, to start carving out the path for one’s own budding sexuality, and especially a woman’s path toward complete ownership of her body. That ownership starts with education. Here’s a quick breakdown of what every young woman should know upon embarking on that life lesson:
Creating the conditions for safe, thorough self-exploration is necessary if we’re going to get through this life with all the comfort, confidence, and stability we’ll need to thrive. (And if anyone ever tells you they don’t masturbate, they’re probably lying.)
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SCIENCE
Seeing to our mammalian sexual urges, as far as I know, hasn’t caused anyone to grow hair on their palms. If anything, masturbation is a very healthy practice for many reasons, including:
- Oxytocin, a natural pain reliever produced by orgasms
- Pain relief and an ideal insomnia cure
- Overall mood boost, thanks to endorphins
- Getting the release you need sans partner
- For dudes: Training yourself to last longer helps you combat premature ejaculation. The increased flow of testosterone helps strengthen bones and muscles
The arguments against masturbation have traditionally been rooted in ethics and moral philosophy more than science. Sex was strictly for procreation, and anything other than that presented a moral dilemma. But what about biology and anatomical health? Who ever needed an IV drip for mental anguish brought on by religious guilt?
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO REAL TALK
It’s perhaps too easy to paint large swathes of conservative religious groups as uneducated, misinformed, and narrow-minded. Thank god for Sister Margaret Farley. She is a professor emerita of Christian ethics at Yale University Divinity School, a Sister of Mercy, and a Catholic feminist unicorn.
Farley’s book, Just Love: New Perspectives in Christian Sexual Ethics, included a passage on female masturbation as a beneficial tool for women who seek “great good in self-pleasuring — perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure — something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers.”
The Vatican publicly denounced her book for being "in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality". In the notification, the Vatican specifically referred to her views on masturbation and homosexuality as “errors and ambiguities.” Farley clapped back, saying her “contemporary interpretations” were attempts to steer masturbation and homosexuality away from taboo, and rightly so.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO YOU
Advocating for your health is not taboo. Masturbation is one of the purest forms of health advocacy you can engage in. Guillermo Del Toro even worked it into The Shape of Water, having his female lead protagonist service herself in the bath as part of her morning routine. This is the kind of normalizing the world needs right now. Getting in touch with ourselves simply makes us better people.
Establishing a strong emotional and mental connection with your body plants the seeds for healthy self-awareness and self-reliance to flourish in the most meaningful way. The confidence you gain from knowing your most intimate self means so much more than we’ve ever given it credit for. It’s the kind of confidence and ownership that will translate into fulfilling, satisfying sex. Your body will thank you. And so will the next person you decide to add to your equation.
The next time you’re up at 3 a.m. wondering why insomnia is still a thing, take a minute to breathe slowly and deeply, and listen to your body. With the click of a button and a few settings alterations, you can exercise your pelvic floor muscles and come back to yourself. Or learn something new about yourself. If the world is your oyster, the pearl starts with you.