May is National Masturbation Month.
This is a month to be open about masturbation, this intimate and pleasurable act of self-care that everyone desires, even if it’s often frowned upon. It’s a month to invest in a new sex toy and read up on the best hygienic practices to keep said sex toy safe. It’s a month to respect your “me-time,” whether you’re single, in a relationship or somewhere in between. It’s a month to feel good.
May 7 is also International Masturbation Day. An adult store, Good Vibrations, declared the annual celebration in honor of Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders. President Bill Clinton fired her in 1994 because she “condoned the idea of teaching school children to masturbate as a way of avoiding the spread of the AIDS virus,” according to Douglas Jehl from the New York Times (December 1994). These were different, and ironic, times.
“Masturbating a glitter/He wants to be loved.”
Masturbation has always been controversial. Historically, it stemmed from a religious concern. People who don’t prescribe to a faith are still too ashamed to be open about masturbation today. Thankfully, most of us have access to the internet and adult toy stores so people can wait out the stigma from the comfort of their own bed. Or sofa. Or shower. The options are endless.
“I think that at a certain age, say fifteen or sixteen, poetry is like masturbation. But later in life good poets burn their early poetry, and bad poets publish it.”
He was going through a lot at the time, but Allen Ginsberg was mastubating when he had an auditory hallucination with William Blake. He spent eight months in the Columbia Psychiatric Institute after this. Leave it to a poet to turn a common desire into such a transcendental experience, it becomes a symptom of mental illness.
William Blake, known for his religious motifs, also had his own erotic spiritual visions. He claimed to literally see God, prophets and Satan.
The lesson here is to keep at it until the orgasm breaks through the borders of reality.
“The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.”
– Sylvia Plath
We can’t talk poets and masturbation without mentioning D.H. Lawrence. Despite being a self-proclaimed sexual liberator, he was fiercely against masturbation. “In masturbation there is nothing but loss. There is no reciprocity. There is merely the spending away of a certain force, and no return. The body remains, in a sense, a corpse, after the act of self-abuse. There is no change, only deadening. There is what we call dead loss. And this is not the case in any act of sexual intercourse between two people. Two people may destroy one another in sex. But they cannot just produce the null effect of masturbation.”
He was also fairly conservative about sex education for students hitting puberty, believing that it should be on a need-to-know basis and taught by their parents. While I believe his notions were misguided, it’s important to note that there’s poetry to carry with you, no matter your thoughts on masturbation.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
The body needs stimulation and the mind needs poetry. Masturbation offers a safe way to explore our bodies and encourages blood flow. The dopamine release make us feel better and relieves tension.
Poetry and masturbation are about self-discovery. It’s why they go so well together. We can’t limit our self-awareness to fleeting thoughts. We have physical senses that are waiting to be used on ourselves, for our pleasure and for our poetry.