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Redefining Sexuality after Stroke

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You can have a healthy sex life after having a stroke.

By StrokeSmart Staff

You can have a healthy sex life after having a stroke. In fact, it’s a key part of getting back into a normal routine. The need to love and be loved is significant. Also, the physical and mental release that sex provides is important.

The quality of a couple’s sexual relationship following a stroke differs from couple to couple. Most couples find that their sexual relationship has changed, but not all find this to be a problem. The closeness that a couple shares before a stroke is the best indicator of how their relationship will evolve after the stroke.

However, having sex after a stroke can present problems and concerns for both you and your partner.

Stroke survivors often report a decrease in sexual desire. Women report a strong decrease in the ability to have an orgasm and men often have some degree of impotency. A stroke can change your body, how you feel and impact your sex life.

Having good communication with your partner, managing depression, controlling pain or incontinence and working with impotence can all help you resume a healthy sex life.

Communication is Key

Talking about sex is hard for many people. It gets even more complicated after having a stroke, when you may be unable to understand or say words or have uncontrollable laughing or crying spells. But it is critical to talk openly and honestly with your partner about your sexual needs, desires and concerns. Encourage your partner to do the same. If you are having a difficult time communicating with your partner about sex, an experienced counselor can help.

Depression, Pain and Medication — How They Effect Your Sex Drive

It is common for stroke survivors and their partners to suffer from depression. When you are depressed, you tend to have less interest in sexual intimacy. Depression can be treated with medications. You may also be taking medicine for anxiety, high blood pressure, spasticity, sleeping problems or allergies. Addressing these medical concerns can increase your sex drive. But know that some medication can also have side effects that interfere with your sex life. If your ability to enjoy sex has decreased since your stroke, talk with your doctor about medicines that have fewer sexual side effects.

Many stroke survivors also have problems with pain, contributing to a loss of sexual desire, impotence and the ability to have an orgasm. This is a normal reaction. Work with your doctor to develop a program to manage your pain and increase your sexual desire.

Controlling incontinence

If you are having trouble with controlling your bladder or bowel, being afraid that you will have an accident while making love is understandable. There are a few steps you can take to help make incontinence during sex less of a concern.

  • Go to the bathroom before having sex
  • Avoid positions that put pressure on the bladder
  • Don’t drink liquids before sexual activity
  • Talk to your partner about your concerns
  • Place plastic covering on the bed, or use an incontinence pad to help protect the bedding
  • Store cleaning supplies close in case of accidents

If you have a catheter, you can ask your doctor’s permission to remove it and put it back in afterwards. A woman with a catheter can tape it to one side. A man with a catheter can cover it with a lubricated condom. Using a lubricant or gel will make sex more comfortable.

Working With Impotence

Impotence refers to problems that interfere with sexual intercourse, such as a lack of sexual desire, being unable to keep an erection or trouble with ejaculation. Today, there are many options available to men with this problem. For most, the initial treatment is an oral medicine. If this doesn’t work, options include penile injections, penile implants or the use of vacuum devices. Men who are having problems with impotence should check with their doctors about corrective medicines. This is especially true if you have high blood pressure or are at risk for a heart attack. Once you have talked to your partner and you are both ready to begin a post-stroke sexual relationship, set yourself up to be comfortable. Start by reintroducing familiar activities such as kissing, touching and hugging. Create a calm, non-pressure environment and remember that sexual satisfaction, both giving and receiving, can be accomplished in many ways.

Ask the Doctor

Things to discuss with your doctor:

  1. Medications for depression and pain that have fewer sexual side effects.
  2. Changes you should expect when having sex and advice on how to deal with them. Be sure to discuss when it is safe to have sex again.
  3. Impotence and corrective medications.
  4. Incontinence — a urologist who specializes in urinary functions may be able to provide help in this area.

Tips for Enjoying Sex After a Stroke

  • Communicate your feelings honestly and openly.
  • if you have trouble talking, use touch to communicate. It is a very intimate way to express thoughts, needs and desires.
  • after stroke, your body and appearance may have changed. Take time for you and your partner to get used to these changes.
  • Maintain grooming and personal hygiene to feel attractive for yourself and for your partner.
  • explore your body for sexual sensations and areas of heightened sensitivity.
  • have intercourse when you are rested and relaxed and have enough time to enjoy each other.
  • try planning for sex in advance, so you can fully enjoy it.
  • Be creative, flexible and open to change.
  • the side of the body that lacks feeling or that causes you pain needs to be considered. Don’t be afraid to use gentle touch or massage in these areas.
  • if intercourse is too difficult, remember there are many ways to give and receive sexual satisfaction.

Complete Article HERE!

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Post-Orgasmic Goading

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Q:

When pleasuring another dude’s cock, when should I stop riding/sucking/stroking after he’s cum? I know how sensitive my cock gets after cumming, but I also feel like some of the sweetest and most intimate moments can be what I do with his cock as it subsides and softens, not to mention that there can still be intense, intense pleasure in those early post-cum moments.
Go for it, while adapting to his needs!

ERECT PENIS

I agree with you that the sweetest and most intense pleasurable sensations can be had soon after ejaculation. I personally call this post-ejaculatory penile massage post-orgasmic goading (but that’s a personal terminology as I’ve never seen an official terminology for this) because this deliberate teasing is done at a time where we all know the penis to be extremely sensitive.

Post-orgasmic goading is not something we men tend to do instinctively for ourselves, as a consequence of the additive impact of three phenomena happening quickly after ejaculation:

  1. The powerful and overwhelming sensation of fatigue that numbs us after ejaculation
  2. The almost instantaneous disappearance of all interest for sex that follows ejaculation
  3. The excruciating sensitiveness of the penis — of the glans in particular — following ejaculation

Acting synergistically, these phenomena trained us very early into avoiding any stimulation to our penis after ejaculation. In fact, this is something most of us were driven to understand only a few weeks after our first ejaculation. As a result, most men will have little to no experience with (and, for some, even the knowledge of) the powerful sensations that can be squeezed out from the penis after ejaculation.

Does that mean that post-orgasmic goading should be avoided? Not at all: on the contrary, it should be encouraged.

What it means however, is that you have to be mindful when initially introducing a partner to post-orgasmic masturbation.

  • Begin by announcing your intent. I don’t mean writing down a contract in triplicates, but after the guy has cum and you continue to masturbate him, tell him that you do. Something like “seeing you cum was wonderful, I want to see you squirm and hear you moan longer”. Eventually, you won’t need to ask his permission to go on with the post-orgasmic goading, but at first you’ll need to, so that your partner doesn’t feel apprehensive. Indeed, when unexpected, post-orgasmic goading will bring forth a feeling of loss of control (and it is, to a point). And most men don’t live well with that feeling, as it is not part of the male psyche.
  • Be clear that you’ll stop if he asks to, and indeed stop when he does asks you to… but with a slight delay. The delay is important as the intensity of the caresses are very likely to make him utter you to stop way too soon. So you should playfully continue a bit longer, yet without going overboard so that he’ll know that you can be trusted. At first, you might not continue for long after ejaculation, but as he learns both that you can be trusted and to let go, you’ll be able to give him long minutes of quasi-orgasmic pleasures…
  • Finally, be considerate. While you can continue to caress the shaft with a relatively strong grip (yet toned down compared to how you held his cock as you sent him through orgasm), you must handle the glans with extreme care. Using his semen(1) as lube, rub the glans slightly and delicately with your fingertips. You’re better off beginning too delicately than the other way around because if you begin the cockhead’s caresses too harshly, it will hurt and that will be the end of it. To evaluate your accomplishment, watch his abs for sudden contractions, watch his shoulders dance around, watch his head moving back and forth, watch also for his hand(s) that may attempt to grip you (surprisingly) strongly in an attempt to immobilize you. Listen to his moans also. Embolden him to move and moan…
  • When introducing a man to post-orgasmic goading, one has to be initially very mindful and open to the needs of the other. When done correctly, it opens a new world of sensations and it is totally fun and addictive(2) ! After some time, you’ll be able to make him dance, squirm and whimper for a surprisingly long time. He will even be looking for it.

While semen is a hassle to deal with after ejaculation, we all like to be reminded that we ejaculated and how much we came. Playing with our semen and smearing it all over helps drive the point that we came and helps us registering that we impregnated the world with our DNA. It makes us feel manly. It’s important to fool around with cum, and doing so won’t change the fact that a clean up is needed after orgasm.

This article is written with a partner in mind as this is the question, but the same applies to you too. Every man should use post-orgasmic goading on their own cock. The same careful and delicate approach applies, especially since it is so difficult to persevere at first, as the glans’ exquisite sensitivity tends to make us spineless. Yet, going against the post orgasmic fatigue and the transient disinterest in sex, on one side, and learning to exploit instead of steering clear from the penis’ post orgasmic sensitiveness, on the other side, allows us to milk even more pleasure from our penis. Something no one can be averse to, right? As it goes so much against our instinctual behavior however, it has to be learned and practiced. Practice makes perfect, though. So practice my lad, practice !

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How do women really know if they are having an orgasm?

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Dr Nicole Prause is challenging bias against sexual research to unravel apparent discrepancies between physical signs and what women said they experienced

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It’s not always clear if a woman is really having an orgasm, as Meg Ryan demonstrated in When Harry Met Sally.

It’s not always clear if a woman is really having an orgasm, as Meg Ryan demonstrated in When Harry Met Sally.

In the nascent field of orgasm research, much of the data relies on subjects self-reporting, and in men, there’s some pretty clear physiological feedback in the form of ejaculation.

But how do women know for sure if they are climaxing? What if the sensation they have associated with climax is actually one of the the early foothills of arousal? And how does a woman know when if she has had an orgasm?

Neuroscientist Dr Nicole Prause set out to answer these questions by studying orgasms in her private laboratory. Through better understanding of what happens in the body and the brain during arousal and orgasm, she hopes to develop devices that can increase sex drive without the need for drugs.

Understanding orgasm begins with a butt plug. Prause uses the pressure-sensitive anal gauge to detect the contractions typically associated with orgasm in both men and women. Combined with EEG, which measures brain activity, this allows for a more accurate picture of a woman’s arousal and orgasm.

Dr Nicole Prause has founded Liberos to study brain stimulation and desire.

Dr Nicole Prause has founded Liberos to study brain stimulation and desire.

When Prause began studying women in this way she noticed something surprising. “Many of the women who reported having an orgasm were not having any of the physical signs – the contractions – of an orgasm.”

It’s not clear why that is, but it is clear that we don’t know an awful lot about orgasms and sexuality. “We don’t think they are faking,” she said. “My sense is that some women don’t know what an orgasm is. There are lots of pleasure peaks that happen during intercourse. If you haven’t had contractions you may not know there’s something different.”

Prause, an ultramarathon runner and keen motorcyclist in her free time, started her career at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, where she was awarded a doctorate in 2007. Studying the sexual effects of a menopause drug, she first became aware of the prejudice against the scientific study of sexuality in the US.

When her high-profile research examining porn “addiction” found the condition didn’t fit the same neurological patterns as nicotine, cocaine or gambling, it was an unpopular conclusion among people who believe they do have a porn addiction.

The evolution of design of the anal pressure gauge used in Nicole Prause’s lab to detect orgasmic contractions.

The evolution of design of the anal pressure gauge used in Nicole Prause’s lab to detect orgasmic contractions.

“People started posting stories online that I had falsified my data and I received all kinds of sexist attacks,” she said. Soon anonymous emails of complaint were turning up at the office of the president of UCLA, where she worked from 2012 to 2014, demanding that Prause be fired.

Does orgasm benefit mental health?

Prause pushed on with her research, but repeatedly came up against challenges when seeking approval for studies involving orgasms. “I tried to do a study of orgasms while at UCLA to pilot a depression intervention. UCLA rejected it after a seven-month review,” she said. The ethics board told her that to proceed, she would need to remove the orgasm component – rendering the study pointless.

Undeterred, Prause left to set up her sexual biotech company Liberos, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, in 2015. The company has been working on a number of studies, including one exploring the benefits and effectiveness of “orgasmic meditation”, working with specialist company OneTaste.

Part of the “slow sex” movement, the practice involves a woman having her clitoris stimulated by a partner – often a stranger – for 15 minutes. “This orgasm state is different,” claims OneTaste’s website. “It is goalless, intuitive, and dynamic. It flows all over the place with no set direction. It may include climax, or it may not. In Orgasm 2.0, we learn to listen to what our body wants instead of what we think we ‘should’ want.”

Prause wants to determine whether arousal has any wider benefits for mental health. “The folks that practice this claim it helps with stress and improves your ability to deal with emotional situations even though as a scientist it seems pretty explicitly sexual to me,” she said.

Prause is examining orgasmic meditators in the laboratory, measuring finger movements of the partner, as well as brainwave activity, galvanic skin response and vaginal contractions of the recipient. Before and after measuring bodily changes, researchers run through questions to determine physical and mental states. Prause wants to determine whether achieving a level of arousal requires effort or a release in control. She then wants to observe how Orgasmic Meditation affects performance in cognitive tasks, how it changes reactivity to emotional images and how it compares with regular meditation.

Brain stimulation is ‘theoretically possible’

Another research project is focused on brain stimulation, which Prause believes could provide an alternative to drugs such as Addyi, the “female Viagra”. The drug had to be taken every day, couldn’t be mixed with alcohol and its side-effects can include sudden drops in blood pressure, fainting and sleepiness. “Many women would rather have a glass of wine than take a drug that’s not very effective every day,” said Prause.

The field of brain stimulation is in its infancy, though preliminary studies have shown that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain, can help with depression, anxiety and chronic pain but can also cause burns on the skin. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses a magnet to activate the brain, has been used to treat depression, psychosis and anxiety, but can also cause seizures, mania and hearing loss.

Prause is studying whether these technologies can treat sexual desire problems. In one study, men and women receive two types of magnetic stimulation to the reward center of their brains. After each session, participants are asked to complete tasks to see how their responsiveness to monetary and sexual rewards (porn) has changed.

With DCS, Prause wants to stimulate people’s brains using direct currents and then fire up tiny cellphone vibrators that have been glued to the participants’ genitals. This provides sexual stimulation in a way that eliminates the subjectivity of preferences people have for pornography.

“We already have a basic functioning model,” said Prause. “The barrier is getting a device that a human can reliably apply themselves without harming their own skin.”


 
There is plenty of skepticism around the science of brain stimulation, a technology which has already spawned several devices including the headset Thync, which promises users an energy boost, and Foc.us, which claims to help with endurance.

Neurologist Steven Novella from the Yale School of Medicine uses brain stimulation devices in clinical trials to treat migraines, but he says there’s not enough clinical evidence to support these emerging consumer devices. “There’s potential for physical harm if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “From a theoretical point of view these things are possible, but in terms of clinical claims they are way ahead of the curve here. It’s simultaneously really exciting science but also premature pseudoscience.”

Biomedical engineer Marom Bikson, who uses tDCS to treat depression at the City College of New York, agrees. “There’s a lot of snake oil.”

Sexual problems can be emotional and societal

Prause, also a licensed psychologist, is keen to avoid overselling brain stimulation. “The risk is that it will seem like an easy, quick fix,” she said. For some, it will be, but for others it will be a way to test whether brain stimulation can work – which Prause sees as a more balanced approach than using medication. “To me, it is much better to help provide it for people likely to benefit from it than to try to create fake problems to sell it to everyone.”

Sexual problems can be triggered by societal pressures that no device can fix. “There’s discomfort and anxiety and awkwardness and shame and lack of knowledge,” said psychologist Leonore Tiefer, who specializes in sexuality. Brain stimulation is just one of many physical interventions companies are trying to develop to make money, she says. “There’s a million drugs under development. Not just oral drugs but patches and creams and nasal sprays, but it’s not a medical problem,” she said.

Thinking about low sex drive as a medical condition requires defining what’s normal and what’s unhealthy. “Sex does not lend itself to that kind of line drawing. There is just too much variability both culturally and in terms of age, personality and individual differences. What’s normal for me is not normal for you, your mother or your grandmother.”

And Prause says that no device is going to solve a “Bob problem” – when a woman in a heterosexual couple isn’t getting aroused because her partner’s technique isn’t any good. “No pills or brain stimulation are going to fix that,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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The 22 Diseases You Can Heal With Passionate Sex

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by Adina Rivers

courbet

The infamous Woody Allen once said: “I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” And oh boy was he right.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

According to Wilkes University, making love twice a week releases an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which helps to protect the body against infections and diseases.

Check out the following list of 22 diseases you can fight with passionate love making:

#1 Sex protects against prostate cancer

Research suggests that frequent ejaculations (at least five times per week) in males reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

#2 Sex helps with keeping fit

There is nothing like having fun (and having pleasure) while playing sports! Making love is good for your heart activity. It also helps to naturally tone the muscles of the body. That seems hard to believe, but while making love you burn about 200 calories in half an hour. If you make love three times a week, you can burn up to 600 calories in total. And it’s much more engaging and fun than a diet!

#3 Sex relieves headaches

During sex, a hormone called oxytocin; it increases the level of endorphins, acting as a natural painkiller. The body then goes into a more relaxed state.

Many people notice that their aches and pains (headaches, cramps, etc.) disappear after sex.

#4 Sex helps fight depression

Women who have regular orgasms are generally more relaxed, less depressed, also physically and emotionally more satisfied.

Sex assists with creating better sleep patterns and relaxes nervous tension by producing, serotonin in the brain – which controls mood elevation.

#5 Sex keeps you young

Sex is one of the key components to looking at least 10 years younger than your age! In his book, “Secrets of the super young,” Dr. David Weeks, a psychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, compiled the lifestyle of about 3,500 people, aged 18 to 102 years. Respondents were having sex at least three times a week and they all seemed to appear years younger than their actual ages. These beneficial effects have also been confirmed by numerous other studies.

#6 Sex protects against incontinence

In women, regular sex promotes exceptional health of the pelvic floor, thereby reducing the risk of age-related incontinence.

#7 Sex heals the mind

Making love is a welcomed pleasure of life, an offering where we share physical closeness and depth. Making love is a healthy desire of the body, heart and spirit that fills us with energy, tenderness and life. It’s a way of communicating with all your senses and feelings. A meeting place where creativity intersects, healing and peace.

#8 Sex makes you happy

People who are sexually active are generally happier (which is great for the immune system) and less prone to depression.

#9 Sex protects against insomnia

Lack of sleep has a negative impact on our daily lives. For insomnia, experts recommend, among other things, to quit alcohol and caffeine, watch TV less often and take a relaxing bath before going to bed. Making love can be added to this list of tips for sleeping well. Men fall asleep almost instantly after sex, and toxins released during the act have a tranquilizing effect on women.

#10 Sex protects against diseases of the skin

Making love regularly releases a flood of hormones in the body, called “hormones of happiness.” They contain testosterone. With age, testosterone levels decrease. So having sex provides a good level of testosterone in the body.

This hormone plays another important role: it keeps the bones and muscles healthy, not to mention the youthful appearance of the skin.

#11 Sex protects against breast cancer

Orgasm can help to prevent the onset of breast cancer. An Australian study suggests that breast stimulation in women releases a hormone called oxytocin. The precise study states due to oxytocin being released in large quantities during orgasm, frequent sexual activity could have a protective role against this type of cancer.

#12 Sex protects against cardiovascular disease

Sex is very beneficial for your heart. A study at Queen’s University Belfast shows that making love three times a week reduces by half the risk of heart attack or stroke. In women, sex increases the production of estrogen, known to fight against heart disease. And there’s good news for men too: another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says that sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack; 50% more compared to men who have sex only once a month.

#13 Sex improves esteem

It is known that as appetite increases eating; the more you have sex, the more you’ll crave it. To enhance sexual arousal, the body gives off a very large amount of pheromones, which, like an aphrodisiac, make you even more attractive for your partner.

Feeling wanted makes women and guys feel attractive and proves that it’s an excellent tonic for our self-esteem!

#14 Sex increases self-control

Having sex regularly soothes and reduces stress. It provides mutual fulfillment and self-confidence among both partners. A recent study in Scotland showed that sexually active people are more likely to keep their cool and manage stressful situations.

#14 Sex protects against Influenza and asthma

According to researchers, making love at least once or twice a week increases the production of antibodies (immunoglobulin A) that protects us from viral infections such as Influenza. Sex is a natural antihistamine: it fights asthma as well as hay fever.

#16 Having sex increases your lifetime

Sex not only makes you feel younger but research shows it can actually slow the aging process. When you reach orgasm, the body secretes DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone or prasterone), a hormone known to improve the health of the immune system, while also repairing tissue that helps keep skin supple. DHEA also promotes the production of other hormones such as estrogen, which can prolong life by improving cardiovascular health. This indeed proves that sex truly rejuvenates!

A 1981 study showed that the mortality rate among those over seventy years was lower among men who were still sexually active …

#17 Sex invigorates your pelvis

Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles. Experts recommend that women practice kegels every day to prepare for the demands of pregnancy. However, in order for results to be effective, your pelvic muscles must be exercised daily. Fortunately, there is another way to strengthen these muscles. In fact, without realizing it, making love tones your pelvis. And the more the muscles are toned, the greater the pleasure during sex is.

#18 Sex helps to protects women against mental illness

According to a study, sperm, when absorbed by a woman, assists with regulating her hormones and thereby reducing the risk of mental illness.

#19 Sex heals back pain

It has been shown in studies that vaginal stimulation has the effect of increasing tolerance to pain. Self-stimulation of the clitoris also exerts an analgesic effect. According to researchers, this type of stimulation can relieve pain caused by menstrual cramps, arthritis, back pain and various other ailments.

#20 Sex and kissing protects against cavities

Kissing each day keeps the dentist away. Saliva cleanses and decreases the level of acid which causes cavities and prevents against dental plaque.

According to a French study, analgesic, in saliva, called Opiorphin relieves physical pain and inflammation-related pain.

#21 Sex assists with easing the symptoms of Sickle cell disease

During intercourse, the heart beats faster and thus increases the oxygen level in the blood and the rate of blood flow. These two natural responses help to prevent sickling of red blood cells and thrombosis.

#22 Sex contributes to overall happiness

The moments of pleasure and affection that we share with our partner remains invaluable. These moments of close intimacy strengthen your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

Economists from the University of Warwick had fun comparing how sex and money contributed to happiness. After interviewing 16,000 people, the main finding is that those who are happiest are also those who have sex the most. And the impact appears to be stronger among individuals with higher levels of education. In addition, a higher income…

Complete Article HERE!

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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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