Lucy: “Where are you?”
Devil/Dad: I’m at my dildo factory.
Lucy: You have a dildo factory?
Devil/Dad: Of course, Sinsperations.
Lucy: I love Sinsperations! I mailed a letter with recommendations!
Devil/Dad: Whoa! Daddy doesn’t want to hear about baby’s ideas on dildos.
Lucy: I’m a big masturbator. I can come there and do product testing.
Lucy: Do you have a bring your daughter to work day?
— Lucy, Daughter of the Devil, “Dildo Factory”
(You don’t know how long I have been waiting to work that scene into a blog entry.)
May is National Masturbation Month! And since the month is almost over, I thought I’d share this great article from The Atlantic: “Masturbation is at the Root of the Culture Wars.” The author, Hugo Schwyzer claims that he can “more or less” predict where you come down on issues like abortion and gay marriage if you tell him how you feel about masturbation, because: “The questions that self-pleasure raises are foundational: to whom do our bodies belong? What is sex for?”
“Masturbation is almost certainly the most common human sexual practice. Though statistics about private sexual behavior vary widely, there’s little dispute that the vast majority of both men and women will masturbate over the course of their lifetimes. Perhaps nothing so universal is discussed with greater embarrassment (or denied with greater frequency).”
Schwyzer gives a little history of the repression of (especially female) masturbation. Some fun facts:
- National Masturbation Month was first organized by the pioneering sex shop Good Vibrations in 1995 to protest the firing of Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders who had dared suggest that teaching young people to masturbate could have a place in sex education.
- In the middle of the 19th century, fealth reformers like Sylvester Graham (of the cracker) and John Harvey Kellogg (of the cereal) warned against the feminizing and enervating effects of male masturbation, describing it not as a sin but as a habit that could rob boys of their vital life force.
- In the early 1880s, Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the first vibrator as a means of quickly inducing therapeutic “paroxysms” (orgasms) as a cure for hysteria in female patients. But Granville wanted those orgasms to take place only under safe medical supervision, thus maintaining medical (and male) control over female pleasure.
- Many progressives were bewildered by Antonin Scalia’s blistering 2003 dissent in Lawrence v Texas, in which he warned that state laws against evils such as “adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, and bestiality” might be invalidated as a result of the decision. Why, liberals wondered, was masturbation included on that list?
Schwyzer explains the issue in Victorian times was female independence:
“The 19th century’s secularized anxiety about masturbation was rooted in a fearful reaction to women’s growing demands for political and economic power. Simply put, doctors and moralists feared that masturbation made men more dependent—and women less so.”
Becky, the Devil’s Advocate: According to our studies, if the people of the world masturbate just eight percent more, civilization will collapse. … We feel that men can’t possibly masturbate more, but women, women can.
— Lucy, Daughter of the Devil, “Dildo Factory”
Today, the issue is comes down to the question of what the purpose of sex is: “Is sex solely about connecting with one other person in intimate relationship, or is it about delighting in something that first and foremost, belongs to us as individuals?” Conservatives come down on one side, liberals on the other:
“In The Ethical Slut, perhaps the best-known ‘catechism’ of progressive sexual morality, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy make the case that ‘the fundamental sexual unit is one person; adding more people to that unit may be intimate, fun, and companionable, but it does not complete anybody.’ Masturbation matters, they argue, not merely because it helps you learn what you want sexually from a partner, but because it helps bring ‘your locus of control into yourself.'”
About a year ago, I reblogged a post from the Mormon Therapist blog at Patheos about masturbation. Natasha Helfer Parker’s statement was in response to Mormon adolescents believing that masturbation was a sin that approximated murder in seriousness: “If this is what we are teaching our youth – then we are emotionally abusing them. And it needs to stop. I will no longer be a compliant witness to this type of psychological assault.” You can go check out Natasha’s post “My Official Stance on Masturbation.”
In response to my reblogging of Natasha’s post, “Ericka”, a faithful Mormon, recently shared this comment about her own experience with masturbation and how it enabled her to have orgasms. I share part of her comment with you here:
“I have been married for eleven years and for the first four years, I could never figure out how to have orgasms. My husband and I would try all kind of things, but yet I could not have an orgasm. Unfortunately, I lost interest in sex for about a year. I would still have relations with my husband but I hated it. Then I got determined to figure out how to have orgasms. I started doing lots of research, and I started to learn my own body-masturbating. Finally, I learned how to have orgasms, and now I love sex!! However, I ended up talking to my bishop and stake president about whether masturbation during marriage is wrong. They both said yes, that it is wrong, and that I should not have done that by myself, and yes that masturbation will definitely keep you from attending the temple. I tried to include my husband in on things, but it basically came down to ME figuring things out(my husband knew what I was doing). If I wouldn’t have masturbated, then I would have NEVER learned how to have orgasms. I don’t regret learning, and it makes me sad and upset that a lot of LDS women/girls are taught not to touch their bodies, this is why I didn’t do it for the longest time. If women are not having orgasms, they are not going to enjoy sex, and this is going to affect their marriages. I finally understand why men need sex, and a big part of that is getting a “release”. The tension and build-up that I get is very powerful, and keeping that all bottled up is very tortuous. If I didn’t have a partner to help me, then I should be able to release it myself. Even with a husband, there are times that I masturbate, because he is tired etc. My sexual desire is a lot stronger than his right now. My heart also hurts for the youth, who can’t take the sacrament, pass the sacrament, or go to the temple because of this issue. They carry around a lot of guilt/shame, and they shouldn’t have to.”
The Mormon Church is not alone condemning masturbation. Our culture is sick over this issue. It is such a relief to see at least part of our culture, Mormon and otherwise, moving in the direction of a more healthy relationship with our bodies.