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Learning the ropes, so to speak

Name: Julian
Gender: male
Age: 32
Location: Mexico City
What does CBT mean?

Geez, CBT could mean all sorts of things, depending on the context. It could stand for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something the good doctor knows a great deal about. It could also stand for Computer Based Training, but why in the world would you be asking Dr Dick about that? Let me see what else…CBT also stands for “Cock and Ball Torture”.

Yeah, that’s it! That’s what you want to know about, huh Julian — you little pervert, you. Good for you!big-balls

There are all manner of torture techniques for your cock and balls Slapping, Squeezing, Pinching, Bondage, the use of weights even tickling can be a form of torture. A dude’s package can withstand a fair amount of torment. But dolling out professional grade torture is not for the amateur. The dominant (as opposed to the submissive) really needs to know what he or she is doing. Carelessness can lead to severe injury.

In most cases, “torture” is really mostly “play”. One’s cock and balls are simply tugged on or stretched out, maybe with some weights. There’s cock and ball bondage too — the family jewels trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey, don’t cha know. And that’s just the beginning. Imagine what you could do with your mother’s old clothespins. See, now you’re putting two and two together!

Oh, and the “T” word doesn’t necessarily stand for torture. It can represent a full range of play — from tickling and teasing to torment and torture.

If you’re interested in investigating the pain/pleasure of cock and ball torture for your self, Julian, here’s a safe way to start. Begin by experimenting with different sensations. Look around the house for things you can brush or rub against your cock and balls. Start with something soft like a silk scarf. Progressively work your way to something with a rough texture, like a scrub brush. You will also notice that the sensations are different when your dick is soft as opposed to when it is hard.

curiosity_WM_1024x1024Try a hollowed-out, cylindrical loofa sponge. Get it good and wet, and slip it over your cock and try jerkin’ off with it. Rubber bands can be applied to your cock and balls. Not only for the constriction sensation, which is delightful in itself. But you can also snap those puppies for some delicious pain.

Lots of pervs like cock and ball spanking. You could try your hand at this, so to speak. Or you could employ a kitchen wooden spoon or spatula. They work nicely too. Prickly things like a fork can be used to scrape or drag over your cock and balls. Poke them lightly if you like. Be careful though; you do not want to break the skin and draw blood.

Cock and ball bondage can be a delight. Hemp rope is the perfect choice for this. And I have a fantastic resource for you, Julian, a novice, as well as for all you more advanced perverts. Check out all the great stuff at Twisted Monk. You’ll find everything you need, including some very informative how-to-videos. Look for the Twisted Monk banner in the V-Style Ball Spreadersidebar.

Again, safe play is happy play. Wrap the rope around your cock, and around each of your balls separately. Use the rope to stretch your sac. A little discomfort is desirable, but just don’t over do it. Remember the sensations will become more intense as your dick engorges with blood. Keep this kind of play to less than 10 minutes at a time. Watch for signs of distress — your dick will veer to the color purple and your balls will feel cool to the touch. When that happens, it’s time to loosen the restraints and move on to something else for a while.

If you really get into this you can find loads of more professional torture implements at Dr Dick’s Oxballs Stacker Ball StretcherStockroom. Look for the banner in the sidebar at the top of the page. There’s a whole department in my online store devoted to cock and ball toys. You might want to start with a ball stretcher or a cock and ball harness. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

CBT is great for livening up and extending a ho-hum jerk off session too. And here’s a tip: once you know what you like and how you like it; you can turn on your partner to the practices.

Speaking of partners, the novice perv might want to surrender his privates to a professional Dom. A well-trained mistress or master will be able to take you places you’ve only dreamed about. A pro Dom is also a great resource for the do-it-yourself kinda guy. Before you launch into uncharted waters, seek the advice of someone who has made the study of pain/pleasure his or her life’s work. But don’t expect to get this information for free.

Cock and ball play can be loads of fun — alone or with others. Just remember the mantra — safe play is happy play. Experimenting is fine, but if you get in over your head and you don’t know what the fuck you are doing, STOP. Go back to something more suitable to your skill set.

Good luck

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Hey sex fans!

I’ve been away. Did ya miss me? Yeah, I’ll bet.

Last Sunday, 07/24, I woke up feeling a bit wonky. Couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was feelin’ out of sorts; I just was. But I had a swell outing planned for the day, so I couldn’t flake. A couple of friends and I were planning on taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island for lunch. The weather was perfect for our little cruise across Puget Sound.

Bainbridge ferry

My friends and I met at Pikes Market, a famous landmark here in The Emerald City, and we walked to the ferry from there. I walk about four miles every day so the 15-minute walk should have been a breeze for me. But something was wrong. I felt lethargic and winded.

pikes market

The 35-minute ferry ride was magical, as always, but upon disembarking and walking to the restaurant I began to really hurt. Not one to spoil the fun I marshaled my resources and made it to lunch.

The walk back to the ferry was excruciating. I was lightheaded, slightly nauseous, and completely winded. My heart was pounding like it wanted out of my chest. My companions became as worried as I was.

Once we docked in Seattle I had to once again disembark then walk to public transportation and to home. I was in a panic. The crush of the crowd around added to my distress. I thought for sure I was gonna faint, or barf, or worse. I was certain that my lungs were gonna give out on me. After many stops to catch my breath and buckets of sweat from the effort I finally made it home.

I’ve been monitoring my blood pressure for several months. (Ya gotta do this when you’re old, like me.) So once at home, I took a reading. My blood pressure was normal, but my pulse was unusually low, a reading of 49 to be precise. A couple of hours later it was 45. This was odd. I had never experienced anything like that before.  Mostly my pulse rate hovers in the upper 70s and low 80s.

I felt much better on Monday. But come Tuesday, I was a total wreck. The least bit of exertion left me exhausted and prostrate. I knew it; my lungs were finally giving out. I put in a call to my doctor and got an expedited appointment for the very next day.

Tuesday’s blood pressure readings were slightly elevated, which was great, but my pulse was way down. I took several readings and each was in the mid 30s never over 40. I still didn’t get it. (This is probably why I’m not a brain surgeon.)

Wednesday turned out to be a nightmare. Unbeknownst to me I was about to began a headlong descent into the maw of the medical industry.

My doctor’s appointment was at 10:30am. The doc took one look at me and ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG). “HOLY SHIT!” She exclaimed. (Or something to that effect.) “How is it that you’re still standing?”

Needless to say, this got my attention right quick. “What?” I inquired. “Although you are not having a heart attack you are this close to the pearly gates. Your pulse is about to flat line, you monkey!” My doctor stuttered. (Ok, maybe she didn’t mention the pearly gates, or call me a monkey, but that was her drift for damn sure.)

Maybe it was the stress or shock of it, but I started to laugh. My doctor asked; “What’s so funny?” I said; “Did you ever see the movie, Death Becomes Her? Remember the scene in the emergency room?”

She gave a faint smile and said; “Yeah, I get it, but this is no laughing matter. Get thee to the Emergency Room ASAP!”

Off I went.

I got to Swedish Hospital (First Hill) Emergency Reception just before noon. The guy behind the desk asked what was wrong with me. I said; “Basically, I’m having a heart attack.” Apparently those are the magic words because the team swung into action. I was admitted immediately, blood was drawn, another EKG, x-rays were taken, and I was hooked up to a heart monitor. Diagnosis: Bradycardia with second-degree heart block.

You need a pacemaker IMMEDIATELY!

We’ll get you a room on the cardiac ward at our Cherry Hill campus, which is just a mile away, as soon as one is available.”

“Oh, OK, I guess,” said I as the severity of the situation finally began to dawn on me. As you can see, I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box.

The fact is, I’m more versed in facing my mortality than the average person, what with the decades of death and dying work that I have done. But let me tell you, staring into the abyss is still daunting.

Back in the emergency room I was laying on a gurney with electrodes and wires sprouting from my chest and back. I lay there for hours listening to the cries, screams, and moans of my fellow emergency patients. Codes blue and grey are being called with regularity and I can just imagine the human misery that surrounds me.

At 5:00pm one of the emergency nurses tells me that a room at the cardiac ward will be available at 7:00pm. “But, 7:00pm is the changing of the shift. So the soonest we could get you there is 7:30pm.”

7:30pm comes and goes. “What’s up?” I ask. “We’re trying to locate transport for you.” Was their retort. “But the Cherry Hill campus is just a mile away. I could walk there from here.” I countered. “But you need a special ambulance, one with a nurse on board, one that can monitor your heart in transit.” “You gotta be kidding!” Said I. “Not at all. You could flat line on the way to Cherry Hill and we’d be liable. Don’t worry, Richard, we will surely have the transport by 10:00pm.”

AMR

The transport didn’t actually arrive till 12:30am. That was twelve and a half hours on a gurney in the ER! And the fun is just beginning.

I finally get to the Cherry Hill campus at 1:00am. I am ushered into a room where I am then interrogated for 45 minutes. (Are you now, or have you ever been…) They called it an intake, but a rose by any other name. I haven’t eaten since breakfast at 5:00am the previous day with only water to drink. Now, even the water was being withheld. I guess they anticipated I would have my procedure later that (Thursday) morning.

swedish cherry hill

Not so fast there buckaroo!

Thursday dawns, but nothing happens. I’m confined to my bed (the second worse bed in the world. The first being the ER gurney I left yesterday) and am attached to a heart monitor. I am faint from hunger and more than a little dehydrated. By noon they decide they need to feed me lest the hunger and dehydration kill me before the arrhythmia.

I scarfed down my lunch like a dying man…mostly because I was.

Allow me to pause my narration for a moment and comment on the cardiac nursing staff. They are superb! And even that superlative leaves me wanting. These women are freakin’ rock stars in my book. One in particular, Nurse Jen, totally got me. We both had the same gallows humor. She is my hero.

Eric Williams

Eric Williams, MD, FHRS

Late Thursday afternoon Dr. Williams, a cardiac electrophysiologist, saunters into my room. He’s gonna be doing the cutting on me. He is a tall handsome black man with the most unassuming manner. He looks me in the eye and talks to me like I’m a human. I’m super impressed with his bedside manner. He tells me my blood work and enzymes are excellent. My x-rays show that my heart isn’t enlarged. (But wait! Every one tells me I have a huge heart.) And there’s no sign that I had a heart attack. We talk about the pacemaker and the procedure. He tells me it’s about the size of a silver dollar. (When I actually see the blasted thing the next day, just before they shove into my chest, I have to wonder where Dr. Williams gets his silver dollars.) The procedure is very routine; he tells me. “Yeah sure, for you maybe.” It’ll last approximately 45 minutes, during which I will be enjoying twilight anesthesia. “Twilight anesthesia, huh? That sounds delightful.” Better living through chemistry, I always say.

I get a sedative Thursday night to help me sleep in my little bed of torture. And nothing by mouth after midnight. (Oh no! Not that again.)

Friday morning my nurses prep me for surgery. First, they have to shave my manly chest, don’t cha know. Nurse Jen takes the lead with a maniacal gleam in her eye.  This is more than a little awkward and also maybe a wee bit kinky.

Finally the fateful hour arrives. I get a second IV stent, because apparently one is not enough for these folks. Then I’m wheeled down to the bowels of the building where I disappear into one of the surgery suits.

1pacemaker0129

Does this look like the size of a silver dollar? I don’t think so.

Two hours later I’m back in my room dopey as all get-out, but still kickin’.

I’m home now, i’m happy to report. They liberated me on Saturday, 07/30, afternoon. And I am only slightly worse for the wear. I have a very distinctive slash across my left pectoral. There’s an unsightly bulge just below it.  It looks like i’m growing a third breast. And a nasty purple and brown bruise that runs from my shoulder to my sternum and from my collarbone to my nipple. I sound like a real attractive guy, huh?

The Moral Of The Story
Life-is-not-a-dress-rehearsal
My friends, life is short! Ought we not live every day like it’s our last? I think so. I have decided that I will try to be more kind to myself and those around me. Because, ya know what?  In a twinkling of an eye, it can and most assuredly be over.

wake up and live

The End

I Can’t Cum, dammit!

Name: Jayme
Gender: female
Age: 23
Location: ??
I have a pretty major question that I think you’d be perfect to answer, with your credentials. I’ve not had the best relationship history. My second boyfriend, right after I graduated high school, was abusive in every way but physically. I stayed with him for 7 months before getting wise and getting out. A few months after the breakup I was almost raped at a party. I found afterward that I was unable to do anything sexual with anyone, unless I was drunk. It was 4 years before I tried hooking up with anyone.

It’s now been 4 years and 6 months since all that happened, and I’m finally starting to get more comfortable with being sexual. I went through some minor therapy over the summer that really helped me to get past the near-rape I experienced in college. Because of that, I was finally able to have sex for the first time a few weeks ago. I’ve been hooking up with a good friend semi-regularly, and it’s been mostly great. The only problem I’ve run into is that I can’t relax enough to cum with this guy, from anything. He’s fingered me, gone down on me, and we’ve had sex, and I just can’t get off. I’ve had no problems ever bringing myself to orgasm, and when I’m with this guy I can feel like I’m just about to, but I can’t get all the way to that point. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Jilling off

Hey there, Jayme.

Thanks for your message. I do have one really important suggestion for you. This is the same suggestion I make to other women who, for whatever reason, are not getting off with a partner.

You say you have no problems bringing yourself to orgasm. This happens during masturbation, right? Do you use your hand, or do you employ a toy of some sort? Perhaps you do both. Whatever your pattern is, it is successful, and that’s the important part.

My suggestion to you is that you masturbate with and for your partner. I am a huge proponent of a couple masturbating together. There is a wealth of information that each can share with their partner about technique and sensitive areas of one’s body. This is a particularly effective means of resolving issues like the ones you have. And I hasten to add that these masturbation events don’t have to be some boring clinical affairs; they can be totally hot. Put on a show for him and he for you. Read erotica aloud to one another. Incorporate toys, whatever.

If you were my client I’d insist on a fucking moratorium. I’d have you and your partner do lots of playful masturbation together — dry hand, wet hand, toys, whatever. Once you get into a rhythm of orgasmic filled masturbation events, I’d have you move on to mutually masturbating each other. When this is successful you could move on to oral, just as long as you also use your hands. Then and only then would I allow you to incorporate full-on fucking to your sex play.

Eliminate the performance anxiety, share your Jack & Jilling off technique and make your sex play fun; that’s your homework.

Good luck

Is this gonna warp me?

Name: Jake
Gender: male
Age: 23
Location: Omaha
I’m 23, and I’ve been dating 30-year-old chick for nearly a year now. I come from a very conservative Christian upbringing and I love that she is more experienced than me. My girlfriend likes to tie me up. I’m a college gymnast so I have very defined muscles. They are a huge turn on for my girlfriend, which I guess explains why she likes to see me struggle against the rope. I get real turned on too when I’m tied up. Sometimes she teases my penis and testicles with a feather or a piece of leather, which drives me wild. I’m worried though, because I think this is gonna warp me somehow. Do you think this is perverted? Why is it so much fun?

Ahhh yeah Jake, I do think it’s perverted. I think your girlfriend is a big fat pervert and I think you’re still a little tiny pervert, but well on your way to being a big fat pervert, just like your girlfriend. So YAY for that!

bondage236And why is this bondage thing so much fun? It’s such a blast because it’s perverted, nasty and forbidden, silly! One can only guess what your fundamentalist Christian mom and dad would think about their star athlete son trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey while a considerably older dominatrix punishes his family jewels. I fear this apple has fallen a great distance from the tree, right Jake? I absolutely love it!

Bondage is fun for you because you have to relinquish all your male privileged, Christian, preppy frat boy control to this unlikely kinky lady friend of yours. And what’s even better, you let her have her way with you. I have a feeling you’re not telling us everything about what she does to you when you’re all tied up. I’d be willing to guess there is a lot more perversion here than meets the eye. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. I think it can be very therapeutic as well as amazingly hot to be completely helpless and in the control of another.

For a dominatrix, like your girlfriend, there is, as you say, the visual aspect to bondage. I think she’d agree, there’s nothing sexier then young masculine, muscular male flesh wrapped in ropes while having his cock and balls available for discipline. It’s the ultimate form of objectification. And, I might add, that you guys are turning all of society’s conventions — particularly the sacred “male as top” thing — on their head. YOU GO!

This has got to turn your crank, on some base psychological level too. I would so love to know how you and your girlfriend met. How she introduced you to all this pervy stuff. And more importantly, how you came to submit so unequivocally. That’s the real story here.bondage237

Jake, you are on the cutting edge. I think you have some sense as to how radical your play really is, don’t you? And I think it’s the radical nature of your play that gives you pause, right? It’s not the actual bondage, discipline, and possible humiliation that concerns you as much as you feel like you are losing your moral moorings. Nothing about what you are currently experiencing at the hand of this woman has any connection to the life you were brought up in. That has to be a bit of a jolt, which makes it all the more enticing. And there is virtually no turning back, is there? Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of surrender, vanilla will never again be enough.

Trust me, none of this makes you a bad person. On the contrary, if you embrace and integrate all this new information about yourself and live your life with authenticity and integrity, it will make you exemplary.

I do have one fear, however. I fear that one-day you will begin to second guess your harmless submissive eroticism and cave to the dictates of the popular culture. The worst case scenario would be for you to continue to enjoy your BDSM lifestyle on Saturday nights, then rush off to church on Sunday morning to join the choir of sanctimonious hypocrites who do one thing in private, but who publicly endorse and promote a sex-negative message of repression and denial. That, my friend, would be criminal…and a real perversion.

Good luck

A handy history

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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