As part of National Masturbation Month, Chris Nufer, a therapist in New York City, looks at some issues around self-pleasuring and asks why there shouldn’t be more discussion about the role of unpartnered sexual pleasure in our lives.
By Chris Nufer
All of the therapists at The Offices Of Dr. Michael DeMarco where I work have volunteered to promote National Masturbation Month during May. What will raising the public awareness of what is by its nature one of our most private acts accomplish? Potentially quite a bit.
Whether we care to admit it or not, self-pleasuring has been part of the human experience forever. Throughout the ages, some have considered it shameful, others thought of it as simply an inconsequential and perhaps unfortunate pleasure. There are hints that it may have had something to do with humans learning to make fire. These days, many therapists and doctors, including a former Surgeon General, tell us it’s healthy, while religious leaders and the bluenosed among us say it’s a disgraceful abomination. Some cultures have worshipped it, others have damned and forbidden it. Others tend to be ambivalent about it and believe it’s no big deal. But good, bad or indifferent, masturbation has been as much a part of the experience of living as ingestion and elimination. In our society it’s acknowledged as a sexual act but only as a primitive one that is “a last resort” when urges become too great. For many it is an adjunct to pornography. For others it is thought of as a basic human right, a political act, or as “the thinking person’s television.” Those who believe that sex is simply for the procreation of the species, abhor “self-abuse” as sinful or at best, pointless. On the other hand, apologists for masturbation point out that it is, after all, the most common way people practice “safe sex.”
What National Masturbation Month does is give people permission to talk about this oldest and most reliable source of pleasure. It gives men and women the opportunity to discuss the role pleasure plays in our lives. For example, we might want to investigate who benefits from cultural norms that discourage the individual’s pursuit of self-pleasuring? Why is this form of pleasure disallowed or frowned upon.
Why did it become such an anathema to society? Is it actually harmful? Why do so many think it should be avoided? Why is being called a “jerk off” and told to “go fuck yourself” so derogatory?
By expanding the discussion of what encompasses healthy sexual behavior, Masturbation Month is also a way for us to understand more about our sexual selves. It may enable people to expand their definition of what “sex” is and what forms healthy sexual behavior can take. By moving beyond the misinformation and myths associated with masturbation, some people who are isolated sexually for medical, familial or religious reasons may find a greater connection to the simple pleasures of being human.
If we can get some consensus about the role that masturbation does and should play in our lives; if we can mitigate the shame surrounding masturbation or at least talk about it; and if we can learn from each other that self-pleasuring does not make hair grow on your hands, render you infertile, drain your life force or make you insane, then National Masturbation Month can be a significant cultural event that provides greater social awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding the enjoyment of pleasure by ourselves.