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‘Being a bottom does not mean being bottom of the pile’

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Gay men still face shame and stigma because of their preferred sexual roles, writes comedian Dom Top.

By Dom Top

Hello there, my name is Dom Top. I am a comedian and, more importantly, a bottom. Ironic, eh? You might now be wondering why I’d give myself this moniker. Well, aside from it being kind of a “LOL” name, I also wanted to challenge people’s ideas of masculinity, specifically why the role of “Total Top” is considered manlier by so many gay men.

Physically, I don’t fit the traditional idea of a masculine, powerful male; I am small in frame and light in weight. I have a beard but not a ton of body hair, slim arms but a sizeable rump. I have a strong London accent, but a soft tone. However, I consider myself to be powerful, strong and authoritative, so I don’t fit the wilting, weak popular image of the “pussyboy” passive that many men ask me to be as I bottom for them.

Personally, I’m fine with this contrast. I am an anomaly to many and I play heavily off that in my writing and performances. Hell, it basically pays my bills! But sometimes, when people find my stage name funny, it reminds me to examine exactly why that is.

First off, let’s have a quick look at some of the popular terminology to describe active vs passive sexual preferences. Top: dominant, aggressive, hung. Bottom: sloppy, dirty, messy, hungry, greedy, bucket, cum-dump.

The receptive person basically sounds like a desperate hole for dumping bio-waste in, while the active party resembles Jean-Claude van Damme after a round of testosterone injections. While I’d argue that it takes more strength and bravery to allow someone to put part of their body inside yours than it does to stick it in, it shows me that there is a clear problem with bottom-shaming in the gay community. And it could stem from a perceived lack of masculinity.

A friend pointed out to me recently that you very seldom hear bottoms engaging in dirty talk that puts us in the, ahem, driving seat. Saying things such as: “Did I break your dick with my huge, tight arse?” or “does your eager cock want my strong, firm hole to smother it?” sounds almost alien to our ears. Instead we encourage the violence of the top’s actions toward the bottom; a huge, monstrous cock forced inside a helpless body, ravaging a small sacred place it has invaded, plundering and vandalising it, yet with the victim still desperately craving it. “Yeah you love it, don’t you? You fucking slutty bottom, you want my big, hard cock splitting your little hole apart?” In this mindset, the top is in the position of power. You are weak, he is strong. You wanted it, he gave it to you. Gifted you it, even. You should be grateful for this. You cannot survive without what he has.

Of course, arousal is subjective and if that gets you off, then so be it. Power dynamics can be hot in the right sexual setting. But I’ve found this to be the default setting of many top guys, and it commonly comes accompanied by an attitude of near revulsion at the fact that our arse actually serves a completely different, but equally natural, function: defecation.

God forbid you remind a total top that you also poop out of that hole. Instead we must also go to great lengths to hide this fact and it is, pardon the pun, really quite shit. Douching is already an embarrassing enough exercise, no matter what method you use.

But years of stress and childish responses from sexual partners have, for some, created a mental obstacle so that often they can’t have sex unless given advance notice to clear out their colons an hour or so before, then pop an Imodium Instant for added peace of mind. All to ensure they can throw their legs in the air and not have to worry about a hint of that smell reaching their top’s nostrils mid-coitus, accompanied by a mildly repulsed “I think you’ve had an accident.” A statement which, aside from making you feel like an incontinent granny or helpless toddler, insinuates that you are solely responsible for the “mess.” Well no actually, my sphincter holds up fine when it’s not having the equivalent of a courgette jammed in and out of it at varying speeds.

While probably not originally coined in reference to bum sex, the term “take it like a man” is certainly representative of some of the mentality regarding bottom-shaming. The most “shameful” element of bottoming seems to come from it being associated with the sexual position of heterosexual females during intercourse: the receptacle. The hole. The bitch. The one being entered and invaded.

But there’s a distinct whiff of misogyny here. To the mind of the misogynist, nothing could be as low or undignified as allowing another person to do that to your body. And sadly this mindset seems to pervade many areas of the gay community.

In a world where machismo and muscles are fetishised, embodying a traditionally female role equates you with being lesser, but you’re still expected by many to conform to masculine aesthetic ideals if you want to be desired. In fact, being a skinny slender bottom can, in some places, render you persona non grata. If you don’t believe me, see Circuit Festival.

Of course, I don’t want to generalise. Not all active guys are, for lack of a better term, total arseholes. There are plenty of great guys out there who understand what it takes to bottom and also know how to be a considerate top. They’re called versatile! Seriously though, as I mentioned before, arousal is subjective. And some people will never be comfortable with putting a boy’s banana up their booty hole. But wouldn’t it be great if that didn’t mean they had a total and utter disregard for those of us who actually do enjoy it?

I love to take it in the rear till I’m blue in the face. I’m not ashamed of that fact and I’m not going to let someone else make me feel as if I’m any lesser a person because of it. Plus, in 2017 gendered roles are so passé. Take it like a man? No, thanks. I’ll take it like the proud power bottom I am.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 common questions about vaginas answered

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A sexual health nurse reveals all

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We don’t often bring up genitals in polite conversation but learning more about vaginas can empower women to make the right decisions about their general and sexual health – and know when to seek medical advice.

Helen Knox, a clinical nurse specialist in contraception and sexual health – and founder of Sexplained – shares the vaginal health questions she hears most frequently and the advice she gives women about how best to care for their most intimate area:

1. Is my vaginal normal?

“I often get asked if the smell or discharge a woman is experiencing is ‘normal’. Firstly, normal is what is normal to you. Your vagina will have its own smell, regular discharge and shape. If you notice a change from your norm such as a change in discharge, smell or discomfort, then there may be something up. But don’t be embarrassed about it and do nothing. You can ask your pharmacist to help you work out what might be going on and give you an over the counter treatment. But if you are in pain, are bleeding abnormally or have persistent symptoms then you must see your GP.”

2. What should my vagina smell like?

“Your vulva and your vagina should smell like you, if this smell changes then something might be up. Your healthy vagina is all about balance: it is home to millions of micro-organisms, and is normally good at keeping them in balance.”

“When this balance gets disrupted, you’ll start to notice things aren’t quite right and you could be developing bacterial vaginosis (BV) which is a very common condition that often causes a fishy smell. BV is in fact two times more common than thrush and like thrush it can be simply treated with an over the counter treatment. Lactic acid based products such as Balance Activ (available at Amazon.co.uk) help to rebalance the healthy bacterial conditions within the vagina, to gently and effectively treat the symptoms of BV by restoring normal pH and vaginal flora.”

3. What should my vagina look like?

“Just like the rest of our bodies, our vaginas are all unique. The only part you can see is the vulva, and these come in all shapes and sizes. If you are experiencing any soreness, itching or other changes there may be a problem that needs checking out. In general, adding anything to your vagina such as glitters or perfumes is going to upset your natural balance and encourage conditions like BV, so I really wouldn’t recommend it.”

“You can’t see your vagina, as it is inside you, and it runs from your vulva, up to your cervix, but as long as you’re not experiencing any unusual smells or discomfort, it’s very likely to be looking after itself – and doesn’t need to be messed about with.”

4. Is my discharge normal?

“The vagina is a relatively acidic environment which keeps itself healthy by producing a range of secretions, so women will experience natural changes in discharge throughout their monthly cycle.”

A period generally lasts for 4-5 days, followed by slight dryness and then an increase in discharge. This will normally be white at first and then change to a clear, stretchy consistency during peak fertility. After ovulation, it changes to a dryer, thicker white or creamy mucus, which sperm won’t be able to swim through. If you’re pregnant this doesn’t change. If you’re not, it’s back to the next period.”

“Even in a healthy vagina, there will be a variety of changes to your ‘normal’ discharge, and these can also vary depending on your age and other factors. A change in discharge to it becoming really thin and watery, or thick and cottage cheese like, or a fishy or unpleasant smell may be a sign that something is wrong and your natural balance has been upset – you can check your symptoms at via the online symptom checker or speak to your doctor, pharmacist or sexual health clinic if you are worried.”

5. How do I keep my vagina clean?

Your vagina cleans itself. It is a common misconception that having conditions like BV means you are not clean – in fact when women notice an unpleasant smell (especially after sex) they will often reach for the soap or perfumed shower gel – this can actually make things worse! There’s a delicate eco-system up there, working hard to keep a balance of bacteria so douching or washing with perfumed products can upset this balance and cause BV. As part of your daily cleaning routine, washing once a day with just water around the vulva, which is the skin around the opening, is fine.”

“By understanding your own normal and staying in tune with your body it will help you determine whether you have any issues. If you notice any changes, don’t sit with on-going symptoms wishing them way, discuss them with your Pharmacist who will happily help you, or make an appointment to discuss them with your GP. The chances are it will be something easily treated and managed.”

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Butt Play Tips for Bum Fun Beginners

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As a man who likes men, I can confidently say butt play isn’t easy. Bottoming can be back-breaking work, and topping is hard AF. But, besides that, it’s also unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen. Is it going to hurt? What if he poohs on my peen, or worse, what if I pooh on his peen? Are farts a turn-off?

If you’re on your first anal adventure, you probably have tons of questions about the ins and outs of bum fun. Don’t worry. It’s normal. No one’s born an expert in anal and everyone starts out as a butt play beginner. So, if you’re new to fifth base and ready to explore the magical world of buttholes, this one’s for you.

Before we get started, let’s start by stating the obvious: The first time you have a dick up your ass, it feels like you have a dick up your ass. But, with proper preparation, you can enjoy every satisfying second from the moment of penetration to the flash of a climactic finish. Here are seven tips for butt-play beginners.

1. Tidy up

Ok, everyone has an opinion about cleaning out. Some guys are all for it while others believe the process is bad for your bowels. We’re not saying you need to hook up to a garden hose every time you take it, but a wet wipe never hurt anyone. Whether you plan to top or bottom, it’s nice to have a clean workspace. What if your man wants to finger your ass while you pound his purple starfish? It could happen, and you’ll want to be fresh(ish).

2. Start small

Start with something smaller than a cock, like the tip of your index finger or pocket bullet. By massaging the anus, you can loosen up the sphincter muscle and introduce the notion of penetration.

3. Go slow

Whether you’re inserting a pinky finger or a penis, go slow and find your groove. If you’re topping, going slow allows your man’s body to acclimate to the sensation of being penetrated. And, if you’re bottoming, you’ll appreciate the extra time to adjust to his length and girth.

Yes, when porn stars shove it in and go straight to pound town, it’s hot AF. but, in reality, it can be uncomfortable and ruin the whole experience. So, or the sake of the hole, slow your roll.

4. Reach around

If you’re the one playing the hole, distract your man with a reach around. This technique works particularly well if he’s on his hands and knees (aka in table position). Here’s what you should do: As you work his hole with your fingers, reach around and tease his shaft, balls and taint with your other hand.

It will drive him wild and take his mind off your fingers that secretly slipped inside.

5. Rim don’t ram

This one is self-explanatory. For tops and bottoms alike, it’s strangely tempting to ram it (your penis, a finger, etc.) in and get right to the rough stuff. Unless you’re into receiving or inflicting pain, don’t do it. Even if the bottom is ready to be penetrated, a forceful entry can make taking it too painful. So, regardless of your weapon of choice, rim the edge and carefully insert whatever your welding into the hole. Also, before you start poking around back there, lube up. Lube is your best friend

6. Communicate

Communication is key to just about everything. When it comes to sex, it’s vital. Whether you’re catching or pitching, ask your partner what feels good and before you perform any crazy maneuvers, talk to your man. Butt play is a lot more fun if you’re communicative.

7. Take fiber

If you’re not into douching but want to be somewhat clean, add extra fiber to your diet. The easiest way to increase your fiber intake is to add a supplement like Pure for Men to your regime. The ingredients in Pure for Men act like a broom and sweep out your insides. A clean butt breeds confidence, which makes it a lot easier to let someone put their finger up your ass.

8. Relax

The most important thing to know about butt play is that relaxing is fundamental. You have to relax. If you’re tense or uncomfortable about ass play, you or your partner could get hurt. So, unwind, grab some lube and explore your backdoor.

Complete Article HERE!

Be sure to check out my very own tutorials on butt fucking: 

Finessing That Ass Fuck — A Tutorial For a Top

and

Liberating The B.O.B. Within

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I am slightly paranoid about being a clean bottom

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Name: Carl
Gender: Male
Age: 45
Location: Seattle
I am a 45 year-old gay man who has not bottomed in over 15 years (which included a 10 year monogamous relationship). I am interested in doing bottoming again. However, I am worried about my cleanliness and smell. As a top, it never bothered me that much with my bottom partners, and it was rarely a problem. I never asked them if they prepared ahead of time.

I am slightly paranoid about being clean as a bottom. Should I use an enema, and if so, with what liquid? How does diet help? I am basically vegetarian, although will occasionally eat meat if it’s served to me (no pun intended). Obviously, this apprehension will not help when the time comes because I’ll likely just tighten up. I know this based on past experience.
I could go on with other details but will stop here and see about your reply.

Thanks!

Hey Carl,

Worrying about stuff is just about the best way to mess up a sexual experience of any kind. But I’m sure that you know that already, huh? This is particularly true for someone reacquainting himself with the pleasures of being a bottom.

I’ve written and spoken extensively about this very thing. I’d like to direct your attention to the CATEGORIES section in the sidebar of my site. It’s a pull-down menu. You will notice that the second category is ANAL. Under this is a whole bunch of subcategories. Click on any one of those you will be taken to all the posting I’ve made on that particular subject. Of particular interest to you would probably be my tutorial for being a good bottom: Liberating The B.O.B. Within.

In terms of douching, warm water is all you need. Never use soap. Some people add lemon juice or vinegar (1-2 Tbs per quart) of the warm water. Others dissolve (2 Tbs) of baking soda in a quart of warm water.Ergo Speed Douche

Stay away from commercially produced douches, most contain harmful and irritating chemicals. And trust me, you don’t want that. Besides, commercial douches are expensive and all that packaging is definitely not Eco-friendly. And we all want to be green sodomites, don’t we?

Finally there is always the ever-versatile shower or bath bidet option. You can find one model, the Ergo Speed Douche, in My Stockroom. Look for the Dr Dick’s Stockroom banner in the sidebar of my site.  (Everyone here at Dr Dick Sex Advice is a big fan of the Perfect Fit Brand line of adult products.)  Look for our review of the Ergo Speed Douche HERE.

I also know that a vigorous fucking will introduce more air into a bottom’s rectum expanding it and making for that “OMG, I gotta take a dump” feeling. So take it easy the first few times you get back into the saddle, so to speak, as it were.

Diet can indeed make a difference in the composition of your shit and how you and it smell. But, that being said, you have to realize your bowels are working properly when they eliminate waste from your body, so don’t try and mess with that. And just so you know, there are often some unpleasant side effects to rootin’ around in someone’s hole, regardless how fastidious the bottom is about his hygiene. So why not just relax and if there’s a little mess, clean it up with some soap and water. Its not the end of the world.

Good luck

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A handy history

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Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

by Barry Reay

A handy history

The anonymous author of the pamphlet Onania (1716) was very worried about masturbation. The ‘shameful vice’, the ‘solitary act of pleasure’, was something too terrible to even be described. The writer agreed with those ‘who are of the opinion, that… it never ought to be spoken of, or hinted at, because the bare mentioning of it may be dangerous to some’. There was, however, little reticence in cataloguing ‘the frightful consequences of self-pollution’. Gonorrhoea, fits, epilepsy, consumption, impotence, headaches, weakness of intellect, backache, pimples, blisters, glandular swelling, trembling, dizziness, heart palpitations, urinary discharge, ‘wandering pains’, and incontinence – were all attributed to the scourge of onanism.

The fear was not confined to men. The full title of the pamphlet was Onania: Or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences (in Both Sexes). Its author was aware that the sin of Onan referred to the spilling of male seed (and divine retribution for the act) but reiterated that he treated ‘of this crime in relation to women as well as men’. ‘Whilst the offence is Self-Pollution in both, I could not think of any other word which would so well put the reader in mind both of the sin and its punishment’. Women who indulged could expect disease of the womb, hysteria, infertility and deflowering (the loss of ‘that valuable badge of their chastity and innocence’).

Another bestselling pamphlet was published later in the century: L’onanisme (1760) by Samuel Auguste Tissot. He was critical of Onania, ‘a real chaos … all the author’s reflections are nothing but theological and moral puerilities’, but nevertheless listed ‘the ills of which the English patients complain’. Tissot was likewise fixated on ‘the physical disorders produced by masturbation’, and provided his own case study, a watchmaker who had self-pleasured himself into ‘insensibility’ on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day; ‘I found a being that less resembled a living creature than a corpse, lying upon straw, meagre, pale, and filthy, casting forth an infectious stench; almost incapable of motion.’ The fear these pamphlets promoted soon spread.

The strange thing is that masturbation was never before the object of such horror. In ancient times, masturbation was either not much mentioned or treated as something a little vulgar, not in good taste, a bad joke. In the Middle Ages and for much of the early modern period too, masturbation, while sinful and unnatural, was not invested with such significance. What changed?

Religion and medicine combined powerfully to create a new and hostile discourse. The idea that the soul was present in semen led to thinking that it was very important to retain the vital fluid. Its spilling became, then, both immoral and dangerous (medicine believed in female semen at the time). ‘Sin, vice, and self-destruction’ were the ‘trinity of ideas’ that would dominate from the 18th into the 19th century, as the historians Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck put it in Masturbation: The Great Terror (2001).

There were exceptions. Sometimes masturbation was opposed for more ‘enlightened’ reasons. In the 1830s and 1840s, for instance, female moral campaign societies in the United States condemned masturbation, not out of hostility to sex, but as a means to self-control. What would now be termed ‘greater sexual agency’ – the historian April Haynes refers to ‘sexual virtue’ and ‘virtuous restraint’ – was central to their message.

Yet it is difficult to escape the intensity of the fear. J H Kellogg’s Plain Facts for Old and Young (1877) contained both exaggerated horror stories and grand claims: ‘neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of Onanism; it is the destroying element of civilised societies’. Kellogg suggested remedies for the scourge, such as exercise, strict bathing and sleeping regimes, compresses, douching, enemas and electrical treatment. Diet was vital: this rabid anti-masturbator was co-inventor of the breakfast cereal that still bears his name. ‘Few of today’s eaters of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes know that he invented them, almost literally, as anti-masturbation food,’ as the psychologist John Money once pointed out.

The traces are still with us in other ways. Male circumcision, for instance, originated in part with the 19th-century obsession with the role of the foreskin in encouraging masturbatory practices. Consciously or not, many US males are faced with this bodily reminder every time they masturbate. And the general disquiet unleashed in the 18th century similarly lingers on today. We seem to have a confusing and conflicting relationship with masturbation. On one hand it is accepted, even celebrated – on the other, there remains an unmistakable element of taboo.

When the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) attempted to identify what made modern sex modern, one of the characteristics he identified was the acceptance of masturbation. It was, as he said, masturbation’s ‘coming out’. Now it was ‘widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasure, and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on the part of both sexes’. It had indeed come to signify female sexual freedom with Betty Dodson’s Liberating Masturbation (1974) (renamed and republished as Sex for One in 1996), which has sold more than a million copies, and her Bodysex Workshops in Manhattan with their ‘all-women masturbation circles’. The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s classic feminist text Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973) included a section called ‘Learning to Masturbate’.

Alfred Kinsey and his team are mainly remembered for the sex surveys that publicised the pervasiveness of same-sex desires and experiences in the US, but they also recognised the prevalence of masturbation. It was, for both men and women, one of the nation’s principal sexual outlets. In the US National Survey (2009–10), 94 per cent of men aged 25-29 and 85 per cent of women in the same age group said that they had masturbated alone in the course of their lifetime. (All surveys indicate lower reported rates for women.) In the just-published results of the 2012 US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 92 per cent of straight men and a full 100 per cent of gay men recorded lifetime masturbation.

There has certainly been little silence about the activity. Several generations of German university students were questioned by a Hamburg research team about their masturbatory habits to chart changing attitudes and practices from 1966 to 1996; their results were published in 2003. Did they reach orgasm? Were they sexually satisfied? Was it fun? In another study, US women were contacted on Craigslist and asked about their masturbatory experiences, including clitoral stimulation and vaginal penetration. An older, somewhat self-referential study from 1977 of sexual arousal to films of masturbation asked psychology students at the University of Connecticut to report their ‘genital sensations’ while watching those films. Erection? Ejaculation? Breast sensations? Vaginal lubrication? Orgasm? And doctors have written up studies of the failed experiments of unfortunate patients: ‘Masturbation Injury Resulting from Intraurethral Introduction of Spaghetti’ (1986); ‘Penile Incarceration Secondary to Masturbation with A Steel Pipe’ (2013), with illustrations.

‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level’

Self-stimulation has been employed in sexual research, though not always to great import. Kinsey and his team wanted to measure how far, if at all, semen was projected during ejaculation: Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Kinsey’s biographer, refers to queues of men in Greenwich Village waiting to be filmed at $3 an ejaculation. William Masters and Virginia Johnson recorded and measured the physiological response during sexual arousal, using new technology, including a miniature camera inside a plastic phallus. Their book Human Sexual Response (1966) was based on data from more than 10,000 orgasms from nearly 700 volunteers: laboratory research involving sexual intercourse, stimulation, and masturbation by hand and with that transparent phallus. Learned journals have produced findings such as ‘Orgasm in Women in the Laboratory – Quantitative Studies on Duration, Intensity, Latency, and Vaginal Blood Flow’ (1985).

In therapy, too, masturbation has found its place ‘as a means of achieving sexual health’, as an article by Eli Coleman, the director of the programme in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, once put it. A published study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1977 outlined therapist-supervised female masturbation (with dildo, vibrator and ‘organic vegetables’) as a way of encouraging vaginal orgasm. Then there is The Big Book of Masturbation (2003) and the hundreds of (pun intended) self-help books, Masturbation for Weight Loss, a Womans Guide only among the latest (and more opportunistic).

Self-pleasure has featured in literature, most famously in Philip Roth’s novel Portnoys Complaint (1969). But it is there in more recent writing too, including Chuck Palahniuk’s disturbing short story ‘Guts’ (2004). Autoeroticism (and its traces) have been showcased in artistic expression: in Jordan MacKenzie’s sperm and charcoal canvases (2007), for example, or in Marina Abramović’s reprise of Vito Acconci’s Seedbed at the Guggenheim in 2005, or her video art Balkan Erotic Epic of the same year.

On film and television, masturbation is similarly pervasive: Lauren Rosewarne’s Masturbation in Pop Culture (2014) was able to draw on more than 600 such scenes. My favourites are in the film Spanking the Monkey (1994), in which the main character is trying to masturbate in the bathroom, while the family dog, seemingly alert to such behaviour, pants and whines at the door; and in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Contest’ (1992), in which the ‘m’ word is never uttered, and where George’s mother tells her adult son that he is ‘treating his body like it was an amusement park’.

There is much evidence, then, for what the film scholar Greg Tuck in 2009 called the ‘mainstreaming of masturbation’: ‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level.’ There are politically-conscious masturbation websites. There is the online ‘Masturbation Hall of Fame’ (sponsored by the sex-toys franchise Good Vibrations). There are masturbationathons, and jack-off-clubs, and masturbation parties.

It would be a mistake, however, to present a rigid contrast between past condemnation and present acceptance. There are continuities. Autoeroticism might be mainstreamed but that does not mean it is totally accepted. In Sexual Investigations (1996), the philosopher Alan Soble observed that people brag about casual sex and infidelities but remain silent about solitary sex. Anne-Francis Watson and Alan McKee’s 2013 study of 14- to 16-year-old Australians found that not only the participants but also their families and teachers were more comfortable talking about almost any other sexual matter than about self-pleasuring. It ‘remains an activity that is viewed as shameful and problematic’, warns the entry on masturbation in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2011). In a study of the sexuality of students in a western US university, where they were asked about sexual orientation, anal and vaginal sex, condom use, and masturbation, it was the last topic that occasioned reservation: 28 per cent of the participants ‘declined to answer the masturbation questions’. Masturbation remains, to some extent, taboo.

When the subject is mentioned, it is often as an object of laughter or ridicule. Rosewarne, the dogged viewer of the 600 masturbation scenes in film and TV, concluded that male masturbation was almost invariably portrayed negatively (female masturbation was mostly erotic). Watson and McKee’s study revealed that their young Australians knew that masturbation was normal yet still made ‘negative or ambivalent statements’ about it.

Belief in the evils of masturbation has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and in the obsession with the impact of internet pornography. Throughout their relatively short histories, sexual addiction and hypersexual disorder have included masturbation as one of the primary symptoms of their purported maladies. What, in a sex-positive environment, would be considered normal sexual behaviour has been pathologised in another. Of the 152 patients in treatment for hypersexual disorder in clinics in California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, a 2012 study showed that most characterised their sexual disorder in terms of pornography consumption (81 per cent) and masturbation (78 per cent). The New Catholic Encyclopedia’s supplement on masturbation (2012-13), too, slips into a lengthy disquisition on sex addiction and the evils of internet pornography: ‘The availability of internet pornography has markedly increased the practice of masturbation to the degree that it can be appropriately referred to as an epidemic.’

Critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce sexual selfishness rather than sexual empathy and sharing

The masturbator is often seen as the pornography-consumer and sex addict enslaved by masturbation. The sociologist Steve Garlick has suggested that negative attitudes to masturbation have been reconstituted to ‘surreptitiously infect ideas about pornography’. Pornography has become masturbation’s metonym. Significantly, when the New Zealand politician Shane Jones was exposed for using his taxpayer-funded credit card to view pornographic movies, the unnamed shame was that his self-pleasuring activities were proclaimed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers – thus the jokes about ‘the matter in hand’ and not shaking hands with him at early morning meetings. It would have been less humiliating, one assumes, if he had used the public purse to finance the services of sex workers.

Nor is there consensus on the benefits of masturbation. Despite its continued use in therapy, some therapists question its usefulness and propriety. ‘It is a mystery to me how conversational psychotherapy has made the sudden transition to massage parlour technology involving vibrators, mirrors, surrogates, and now even carrots and cucumbers!’ one psychologist protested in the late 1970s. He was concerned about issues of client-patient power and a blinkered pursuit of the sexual climax ‘ignoring … the more profound psychological implications of the procedure’. In terms of effectiveness, critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce individual pleasure and sexual selfishness rather than creating sexual empathy and sharing. As one observed in the pages of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1995: ‘Ironically, the argument against masturbation in American society was originally religiously founded, but may re-emerge as a humanist argument.’ Oversimplified, but in essence right: people remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex.

Why has what the Japanese charmingly call ‘self-play’ become such a forcing ground for sexual attitudes? Perhaps there is something about masturbation’s uncontrollability that continues to make people anxious. It is perversely non-procreative, incestuous, adulterous, homosexual, ‘often pederastic’ and, in imagination at least, sex with ‘every man, woman, or beast to whom I take a fancy’, to quote Soble. For the ever-astute historian Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex (2003), masturbation is ‘that part of human sexual life where potentially unlimited pleasure meets social restraint’.

Why did masturbation become such a problem? For Laqueur, it began with developments in 18th-century Europe, with the cultural rise of the imagination in the arts, the seemingly unbounded future of commerce, the role of print culture, the rise of private, silent reading, especially novels, and the democratic ingredients of this transformation. Masturbation’s condemned tendencies – solitariness, excessive desire, limitless imagination, and equal-opportunity pleasure – were an outer limit or testing of these valued attributes, ‘a kind of Satan to the glories of bourgeois civilisation’.

In more pleasure-conscious modern times, the balance has tipped towards personal gratification. The acceptance of personal autonomy, sexual liberation and sexual consumerism, together with a widespread focus on addiction, and the ubiquity of the internet, now seem to demand their own demon. Fears of unrestrained fantasy and endless indulging of the self remain. Onania’s 18th-century complaints about the lack of restraint of solitary sex are not, in the end, all that far away from today’s fear of boundless, ungovernable, unquenchable pleasure in the self.

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