May is International Masturbation Month
National Masturbation Month started in May in 1995! Earlier that year, then-Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was fired for saying that masturbation should be discussed as part of young peoples’ sex education. We were astounded. It was one of the most sensible things we’d ever heard a government official say — and it cost Elders her job! We started National Masturbation Month — now International Masturbation Month with people celebrating across the globe! — to raise awareness and to highlight the importance of masturbation for nearly everyone: it’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s free, it’s pleasurable and it helps people get to know their bodies and their sexual responses. Of all the kinds of sex people can have, masturbation is the most universal and important, yet few people talk about it freely — worse, many people still feel it is “second best” or problematic in some way. Masturbation Month lets us emphasize how great it is: it’s natural, common and fun!
Because “the merry, merry month of May” has long been seen as symbolizing sexual awakening. Also, because “May” and “masturbation” both start with “M” — it’s nice and alliterative.
Why talk about masturbation?
Because many people still feel guilty about it, or feel they do it too much, or feel it’s a second-best substitute for “real” sex. We think it’s important to bring it out into the open and let people feel better about what they’re doing — and, for those who may not be doing it, we want to encourage it! Masturbation is, for many, the cornerstone to a healthy and good sex life. It isn’t second-best — it can give you the information and awareness you need to enjoy the rest of your sex life. Self love rules!
- Because masturbation is immensely pleasurable, invigorating, rejuvenating and fun.
- Because sexual pleasure is each person’s birthright.
- Because masturbation is the ultimate safe sex.
- Because masturbation is a joyous expression of self love.
- Because masturbation offers numerous health benefits including menstrual cramp relief, stress reduction, endorphin release, stronger pelvic muscles, reduction of prostate gland infection for men and resistance to yeast infections for women.
- Because masturbation is an excellent cardiovascular workout.
- Because each person is their own best lover.
- Because masturbation with a partner can be educational and hot.
- Because masturbation increases sexual awareness.
For these and many other reasons we celebrate Masturbation Month and affirm the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness and sexual pleasure!
History of the Masturbation Taboo
Almost everyone masturbates, but all too few of us are willing to admit to enjoying this simple pleasure — mostly because of the taboo against masturbation in our society, which has its roots in historical misconceptions that have survived to the present day. Concerns about masturbation tend to fall into two general categories: that masturbation is dangerously wasteful or that it’s immature. The notion that masturbation is wasteful springs from the widespread misconception that men have a finite allotment of sperm and that every ejaculation depletes precious semen, resulting in exhaustion and weakness. Although women don’t produce semen, it was once believed that masturbation was similarly destructive and debilitating to them. The belief that masturbation is such a dangerous drain on energy that it can lead to enfeeblement, illness and ultimately insanity was so persistent in 18th, 19th and even 20th century Europe and America that treatments for preventing masturbation became something of an obsession.
Turn-of-the-century magazines featured advertisements for penile rings which were spiked on the inside so that if the wearer experienced an erection during the course of the night, he’d wake from the pain. Bondage belts, restraints, straitjackets, cauterizing irons and even clitoridectomy (the surgical excision of the clitoris) were all methods used to prevent young women from masturbating. American health reformers of the 19th century preached, as in these words from John Kellogg, that masturbation was “the vilest, the basest and the most degrading act that a human being can commit.”
Although most men and women today are aware that masturbation isn’t a “degrading act,” many are still constrained by the notion that it’s a selfish, immature activity or a second-rate substitute for partner sex. We live in a society in which sexual expression has always been legislated and restricted and the pursuit of pure pleasure is frequently condemned as selfish and childish. A lot of people who consider themselves free of sexual hang-ups have simply rewritten the equation “sex is only good if it involves procreation” to “sex is only good if it involves two loving people.” The fact that masturbation is a pleasurable end in itself gets short shrift in mainstream sex manuals, which focus on masturbation as a useful tool in the building of a better sex life with one’s partner. While it’s certainly true that masturbation provides valuable information about your own and your partners’ sexual responses, masturbation is much more than a means to the exalted end of better partner sex. Masturbation is our first sexual activity, a natural source of pleasure that’s available to us throughout our lives, and a unique form of creative self-expression. Each time you masturbate, you’re celebrating your sexuality and your innate capacity for pleasure, so give yourself a hand!
While giving yourself pleasure may seem as natural as taking a breath, masturbation is by no means a widely accepted form of sexual activity. Today, in many parts of the world (including the U.S.) children are punished if they are caught masturbating, which can affect their sexuality for the rest of their lives. Adults in cultures across the globe are presented with heterosexual marriage as the only acceptable form of sexual expression. Masturbation is not honored as an important form of safer sex, much less as a way a person can love herself, learn about himself, or exercise, as one wonderful Chinese euphemism puts it, “self-comfort.”
Masturbation can be a radical act, and the culture that suppresses masturbation may suppress many other personal freedoms as well. While celebrating Masturbation Month and doing your part to bring self love out of the closet, keep in mind that erotic freedom is essential to true well-being, everywhere.