By Ceyrone Akkawi
Sit back, relax, put on some mood music, light up your favourite scented candle, and start romancing yourself. May is International Masturbation Month. It is a month dedicated to protecting your right to masturbate. A month focusing on self-love and the solo exploration of our bodies.
International Masturbation Month initially started out as a “day”, National Masturbation Day that was observed on either the 7th or 28th of May. It was created in response to the sacking of the US Surgeon-General Jocelyn Elders by US President Bill Clinton over Elders’ statements supporting the discussion of masturbation as part of young peoples’ sex education for sexual health and wellbeing. It is important to note, Jocelyn Elder’s was the first African American woman to hold the post of Surgeon-General.
International Masturbation Day was a movement that was started by Good Vibrations, a San Francisco-based sex toy retailer in support of Jocelyn Elder’s statements. To raise awareness of the importance of masturbation, something that is safe, healthy and free to do. It is pleasurable and helps people get to know their bodies and their sexual responses.
According to research, reports suggest that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation may help to relieve built-up stress and cramps, release sexual tension and lead to better sex. Masturbation helps you feel pleasure, be more relaxed, it boosts your mood and helps you sleep better. It also allows you to better understand your wants and needs.
International Masturbation Month lets us emphasise how great it is, how natural, common and fun self-pleasure can be. However, for many people masturbation leads to a profound sense of shame, guilt and self-hatred. Often leading to depression.
Almost all religious groups have condemned masturbation, claiming it inhibits self-control and promotes sexual promiscuity. The many myths and outdated beliefs surrounding masturbation remain hard to shake. Myths that suggest masturbation leads to blindness, causes impotence later in life, premature ejaculation or sex addiction.
James Smith, now in his forties, recalls that throughout his teen years, he felt a sense of shame and guilt associated with masturbation. He believes the adults in his life failed him for not promoting a positive outlook on self-pleasure.
“I went to a Baptist high school. The teachers separated the boys and the girls in the high school grades so they could discuss the perils of masturbation. At the time, I was a pretty susceptible kid and I was conditioned to fear hell,” James said.
“While they lectured us on the sins of touching oneself and talked about the temple of god and procreation, my ears where burning red. I felt everyone in the room knew that I had sinned. While taking a shower, I would look up at the ceiling for fear of seeing myself naked and getting an erection. I would shower as quickly as I could and try to not over lather. I was that type of kid.”
One of the most destructive emotions a person, especially a young person can experience is guilt and shame over something that is natural and healthy for our well-being. This guilt does nothing to make people abstain from forbidden sexual activity. What it does is it creates an unhealthy response and an embarrassment to self-pleasure, sex, intimacy and love.
Discussing the first time he ever masturbated to completion, James said, “When I was 14, I was lying in bed one night, I was touching myself, I knew about the function. I didn’t think I was jerking off. I just remember it felt good, it felt really good and I couldn’t stop even though I needed to piss. The more I touched myself, the stronger the urge to get up and use the toilet, but I kept touching myself.”
“Eventually I started to uncontrollably piss all over myself and I leapt out of bed and staggered to the toilet, still pissing. I made it to the toilet and discovered something on me that wasn’t urine. I remember playing with it with my fingers and for a second I was confused. As soon as I knew with clarity what had just happened, I immediately fell to my knees, sobbing, and praying to God for forgiveness. Looking back on that moment I was really robbed by the adults in my life.”
James’ friend Stephen, who went to the same school, had a more tolerant and sex-positive home life.
“Years later when I was living with my best friend, who I had met at that same Baptist school but who had a more tolerant home life. He counted that day, as the day he lost faith and no longer believed in heaven or hell. He wasn’t going to give up masturbation for anything, not even God,: James said.
It is very important for adults to have a more open dialogue about masturbation as a tool for self-pleasure. Not just with each other, but with young people as well. We need to shift this idea that masturbation is something to be ashamed about, to something that is healthy and natural.
Not only does this promote sex-positivity within our own homes and in society but it also allows us to teach young people healthy behaviours and attitudes without stigma and shame. If parents and guardians feel embarrassed about having this discussion, there is no shame in seeking out extra guidance to find sex-positive sources of information.