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UA Report: Few Studies Look at Well-Being of LGB Youth of Color

Studies that do look at gay, lesbian and bisexual youth of color tend to focus on negative outcomes, a UA-led report finds.

By Alexis Blue

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While research on lesbian, gay and bisexual youth has increased in recent years, these studies often fail to look at the experiences of young people of color, according to a new report in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health.

This omission may lead to wide gaps in understanding the experience of sexual minority youth who also are part of a racial or ethnic minority, says University of Arizona researcher Russell Toomey, lead author of the report.

Russell Toomey

Russell Toomey

Studies that do look at gay, lesbian and bisexual youth — also known as sexual minority youth — of color tend to focus on negative outcomes, such as sexual risk-taking behavior and alcohol and tobacco use, rather than normal developmental experiences. This is according to researchers’ review and analysis of 125 reports on sexual minority youth of color, age 25 and younger, published since 1990.

“Adolescence is a time of identity development — when we figure out who we are — and most of the research really hasn’t paid attention to the fact that the youth have multiple identities that they’re juggling at the same time,” said Toomey, assistant professor in the John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Studies focus on young people’s sexual identity but they totally ignore racial or ethnic identity, which is also becoming very salient and important during adolescence,” Toomey said. “Very few studies have merged those two and examined how an LGB-identified person might have to navigate sexual identity in the context of their culture or vice versa.”

Toomey conducted the literature review with collaborators Virginia Huynh, professor at California State University, Northridge; Samantha K. Jones, researcher at the University of Missouri; Sophia Lee, a graduate student at San Diego State University; and Michelle Revels-Macalinao, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge.

Given that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are coming out at younger ages and given that the nation’s demographics are changing, with the U.S. Census Bureau projecting that the nation’s Hispanic population will nearly double by 2050, it’s critically important to consider the intersection between sexual orientation and race-ethnicity, Toomey said.

Also important, Toomey said, is looking at the normal, everyday experiences of teens with multiple oppressed identities.

“The literature’s focus has really been on understanding negative outcomes among LGB youth of color, and we’re not focused on any of their normative experiences as people,” he said. “This particular adolescent population has really been framed as a ‘risk population,’ and we need to start to understand their experiences with family and school contexts to really understand how to prevent or reduce some of those negative outcomes.”

Toomey and his collaborators also found that the experiences of women and transgender individuals were largely invisible in the reports they analyzed, with the majority of studies looking solely at men. This signals another area where more research is needed.

“It will help us to understand the complexities of young people growing up in the U.S. today if instead of ‘siloing’ their experiences we try to examine their holistic experience,” Toomey said. “Paying attention to the multiple layers of youths’ lives will help us to better understand how to reduce disparities in health and well-being by targeting intervention and prevention in more culturally appropriate ways.”

Complete Article HERE!

You Should Get Naked More Often. It’s Good for You

you-should-get-naked-more-often-it-s-good-for-you

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When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping, working out, and lounging around in the buff actually provide legitimate health benefits.

While you shouldn’t ALWAYS seek out St. Louis-area rappers for your medical advice, here are five health-related reasons to take off all your clothes

Your skin will improve

Tight, synthetic apparel can cause skin to freak out, resulting in rashes, clogged pores, and irritation, according to dermatologist and RealSelf advisor Dr. Sejal Shah. And when you perspire, it creates an environment for yeast and fungus to thrive, which, gross. She recommends sleeping sans skivvies to keep your skin healthy and clear. If you’re into pumping iron at home, maybe try doing it au naturel to avoid sweaty workout clothes that trap bacteria against your skin. That’s the way Arnold probably did it, right? At the very least, you’ll save yourself the stench of old gym clothes festering in your hamper.

You’ll sleep better

Keeping your body cooler at night yields more restful sleep. “A lower body temp helps with sleep, all bodies sleep better in the cooler temperature,” says Michael Breus, PhD, aka “The Sleep Doctor.” The National Sleep Foundation confirms by saying, “Your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep.” In case you’re not into the high energy bill that will result from cranking your A/C to the recommended 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, just ditch your PJs for an immediate cooling effect.

You’ll have better sex

Obviously sex is better when you don’t have any clothes on, as opposed to the fully covered version you see on network TV. But spooning naked all night could also help you get in the mood. From the time you’re born, skin-to-skin contact signals the release of oxytocin — a feel-good hormone — which increases empathy and your mom’s feelings of attachment… but that oxytocin release is also associated with romantic love. Turns out that Oedipus was pretty spot-on, and the Greeks knew nothing about neurobiology. All that oxytocin flowing around in your brain just may take your sex to another level.

Another factor in sexual enjoyment is self-esteem, which can be boosted by spending extra time in the buff. “[When you spend more time naked], your body image improves, and you become less concerned with how you look and instead focus on how you feel in your own skin,” says Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “We have been taught to hide our bodies in shame (e.g., dress to hide your so-called ‘problem’ areas), and these messages take a toll on our relationship with our bodies. Being naked helps us to reclaim the entire body as the beautiful vehicle that carries us around across a lifespan.”

Dr. Breus adds a good point about nudity and sex: “Most people are intimate when given the right opportunity. Not needing to remove items of clothing, and knowing that the person you share a bed with is naked is just that — an opportunity.” Well said, assuming the person you share a bed with is a consenting adult.

Your nether regions will thank you

Men and women alike reduce their risks of certain infections and conditions when they go commando, especially at night. Underwear traps heat and moisture around the groin, potentially leading to jock itch in men and yeast infections in women. For women who suffer from chronic infections, the health benefits and comfort levels of ditching panties are even higher. Let those bits breathe once in a while!

You’ll reduce your risk of heart attack

This summer, hit the nude beach (or just quickly strip down in your backyard when no one’s looking) to improve your heart health. The key is vitamin D, which is created by our skin cells when they are exposed to the sun. People deficient in this important vitamin suffer from an increased risk of coronary heart disease. While the duration of sun exposure required for enough vitamin D depends on skin tone, the Vitamin D Council recommends a minimum of 15 minutes outside — not necessarily in the nude, but hey, it won’t hurt. Provided you use enough sunscreen, of course.

Complete Article HERE!

A Very Surprising Gift

Name: Shauna
Gender: Female
Age: 38
Location: Des Moines, IA
I work with this really terrific girl, who’s around 10 years younger than I am. Lately, even though I am happily married, I find myself awkwardly attracted to her. I am actually masturbating while fantasying about her. Like I said, I am married to a great guy and I don’t want to hurt him, but I have to get advice on this. I’m so confused.

Anytime there is a noticeable change in one’s eroticism, regardless at what stage of life it happens, the shift can be a bit disconcerting. Here you are, a mature, confirmed, card-carrying straight married lady who has an unanticipated crush on a much younger female coworker. That can’t be sitting very well in your buttoned down world there in the heartland, huh?Lesbian Bed Death2

I suppose you could view this as a major problem or you could accept this as a gift. That’s right, a gift. This surprising event, even at your seriously advanced age of 38, indicates to me that you’re still growing. Personally, I think that’s wonderful. The fates have gifted you with this sweet, young sexy female muse. You can either reject the fates and deny yourself, or embrace this opportunity to explore the yet uncharted areas of your sexuality.

Even if you never act on your same-sex sexual impulses, I think it’s safe to say you are finally encountering your latent bisexuality. Don’t be too surprised by that; most all of us are naturally bisexual in one fashion or another. Unfortunately, our sex-negative society discourages and disallows these very natural tendencies. So when they pop up, as often they do, we are usually unprepared to acknowledge them, let alone accept and welcome them. Will you cave to the pressures of the popular culture, or buck the social trend? I’m in no position to guess. All I know is that this relatively benign sexual adventure could be an opportunity to expand your sexual options.

Like I said, there are several ways to proceed. You could deny yourself the adventure and sublimate your desires. I don’t recommend this, because it rarely works. Healthy, natural feelings like the ones you’re having can fester and embitter the one practicing the self-denial. Another option is to go with the fantasy, enjoy it for what it is worth. Keeping your bisexual proclivities fantasy material allows you to remain safe and pretty much maintains the status quo. Then there’s the option of pursuing your fantasy and making it a reality. Obviously, this option carries the greatest potential for disrupting your life.

Wild girls wild nightsIf you choose the path of keeping your bisexual urges a fantasy, you might want to pursue them to see if you are attracted to other women. You could do this through reading some hot lezzi-themed erotica, or checkin’ out some swell (authentic) Sapphic porn. If you discover you are not interested in other women, but that you only have a jones for your charming coworker of yours; you may be a situational bisexual. Regardless if you are a “real” bisexual or a “situational” bisexual, imagine the fun you’ll have with your little secret. My only caution would be to treat your coworker the way you would treat any other coworker you might have a crush on — the best thing to do is; do nothing. Workplace flings, of any stripe, rarely turn out happily. And of course, you also have your marriage to consider. Fantasies are fine as long as they don’t fuck up your real-life relationships.

One other thing, don’t automatically assume your husband would be put off by your newly awakened sexual tastes. That is if you ever get around to telling him. It might actually be a big turn-on for him too. Most straight guys get off on the idea of two women together. Some husbands encourage their wives’ occasional bisexual encounters for this very reason. Your husband may even be interested in a threesome with you and another woman somewhere down the line. Again I advise that it not your coworker, though.

In the end, this is an exciting time for you, Shauna. Is it challenging? You betcha! But it’s also very rewarding.

Good luck

7 Things I Learned After A Year Of Celibacy

(Personally I wouldn’t use the term celibacy to describe sexual abstinence and HERE is why.)

 

The most important lessons I learned about sex were when I wasn’t having any.

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1. I used to have a lot of sex.

I’m not shy about it. I was a woman with many casual sexual partners, and for a while it was really very fun. I revelled in it. Played up to the role. I was a good-time gal and wanted you to know it. I was in control of my sexuality and unafraid to explore it – and exploit it.

Then it stopped being fun. Somewhere along the way – the way being several years of drunken promiscuity with more men than I’ll admit to – my intentions got muddied. Tarnished. I was using sex as a weapon, a way to keep distance between me and every bloke I kicked out of my bed at 4am. Hats off to you if you can enjoy no-strings-attached sex, but me? I was playing a role, a sort of Samantha-Jones-meets-Russell-Brand playgirl, and I wasn’t happy. It took me a while to realise it, but once I did – once it hit me that I was lonely, and a bit of a phoney – the reality was devastating. So I closed my legs. For a year I didn’t date. For 12 months I asked myself who I was, what I wanted, and how I could bridge the gap between those two things.

2. It’s lonelier to be in bed beside a stranger than it is to be in bed alone.

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The turning point for me was being in bed with a balding Australian who wouldn’t speak to me on nights out with mutual friends and yet, somehow, I’d always take home. One lazy morning I leaned over to him and said, “Make me come…” His answer was to check his watch, and get up to go shower. He might’ve known the sound of my orgasm and the taste of my kiss, but I couldn’t find the words to tell him how humiliating his treatment of me – our treatment of each other, to be fair – was, because there was absolutely no intimacy. Once I was celibate, I saw that the sex had been a pseudo-surrender: I could pretend to be revealing parts of myself, but really was using my body to ensure I’d never have to. It’s the most isolating thing I could’ve done. No wonder I felt lonely.

3. Nobody can love you until you love yourself.

It’s almost embarrassing to write that, hackneyed phrase as it is, and yet it’s the truest thing I know. I reckon on some level I was after somebody to prove my own worth to me. My high school sweetheart of almost a decade had dumped me to marry my best mate, and that affected, so deeply, how I thought of myself. I think I was looking for parts of myself in every man who I seduced. I revealed my most unkind, mean version as if to see who would challenge me and love me anyway. Some men tried, and I couldn’t respect them for it. I didn’t trust anyone who wanted to be with me, because what poor judgment did that demonstrate? I could never date a man actually interested in such a broken half-woman. It’s because I didn’t like myself that I couldn’t believe anybody else did. Nobody can love you until you do.

4. Good sex is sex with somebody you actually like.

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In my most promiscuous years, the sex I was having was terrible. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but once I declared my year-long vow of celibacy I allowed myself to have the kind of fantasies I’d previously denied. I let my mind wander as to what it would be like to be kissed – every last inch of me. To have a man take his time, to be explored deeply, widely, to be looked in the eye. Sex with somebody you like as expression of intimacy, and not as a substitute for it, is just about as hot as it gets. Sex acting out what you think you should do based on some bad porn you’ve googled? Not so much. Sex with a man who claims not to “know you well enough” to go down on you? Even worse.

5. A sexless life isn’t a loveless life.

As soon as I stopped making sex my focus for a night out, or for parties or work events or any other time I left the goddamn house, the love in my life increased exponentially. It was inversely proportional. When I wasn’t trying to sleep with men, men were suddenly more interested in me. In what I had to say. I was very honest about my year of celibacy, and it fascinated them. I had so many conversations about the pressures they felt to “perform” a certain way in the bedroom, about how much they, too, wanted real connection, a partner. It was enlightening. We’re largely sold this idea of men as single-minded fuckboys, shagging around and not wanting to be bothered by commitment, that it’s us girls who pressure them into marriage and babies, and it shouldn’t have been so shocking to me that actually they wanted to be as seen and as valued as I did. They want families and community, too. Plus, boys make really good mates when you’re not trying to shag them. A revelation.

6. It’s not actually as hard you you’d think to go without.

The most commonly asked question I get about a year of celibacy is “But didn’t you go insane?” Look, I’ll be upfront: I wanked furiously. Of course I did. And I missed the weight of a man’s body on top of me. But the longer I went without sex the easier it became, and the more I was determined that when I did start engaging again it would have to mean something. It’s a bit like doing dry January – there’s an end point, and when you reach it it’s not worth your first drink being a warm chardonnay in a plastic cup. Oh no. On 1 February you spend all day dreaming about an ice-cold pint served in a frosted glass, beads of condensation dripping down the glass as you lift it to your mouth and let the bubbles dance on your tongue. And so with the first lay after a dry spell.

7. I will never be ashamed of my history.

My story is one about sex and the body – it’s one about feelings and the heart. Nobody else gets to decide what my history is. I got hurt, like a bajillion other people have been, and I had to figure out my shit, like a bajillion other people have. That’s not sickening and unworthy. That’s human.

Some men I’ve dated don’t get it – but I’d do it all again, unapologetically. I continue to date again, in hope. Unapologetically. I will meet a million different men at a million different events, and with some of them I will think, OK, let’s see if there is something here. I will go out with them and drink with them and laugh with them and wonder about them. Sometimes, I’ll go home with them too. If it feels right. I play fast and easy with my feelings because the alternative – shutting off my feelings entirely, as I had done – is just too damned depressing. It’s par for the course that some men won’t understand that. That some won’t understand that I’m proud of what I did to become who I am. Not that I shagged around, but that I got down in the trenches with every last damned hang-up I have, and shone a light on the fuckers until I wasn’t scared any more.

I did the work. I did the work, and I will never not reveal what that work looked like. I’m still learning, but I have learned enough to understand that you have to own what you’re ashamed of or else it owns you. My one won’t be deterred by the dirt under my fingernails. My one will thank me for it. My one will understand. The blokes who don’t understand, who don’t get what it took, they
aren’t my one. The ones who don’t understand are another lesson learned, all
in the name of what will be.

Complete Article HERE!

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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