Why May Is My Favourite Month

Tulip_with text

May is my favorite month for so many reasons. In my neck of the woods it heralds the arrival of reliably warm weather, the long holiday weekend and fresh fragrant flowers everywhere.

May is also National Masturbation Month.

Self-pleasure can be a touchy subject…both literally and figuratively. I distinctly remember an episode of the sitcom Roseanne where young DJ is caught masturbating and his father tells him, “The funny thing is everybody does it, but no one ever, ever talks about it.”

The taboos around wanking still linger. It’s not something many of us feel comfortable discussing. In my experience, masturbation is sometimes perceived as a lesser, somehow baser type of activity reserved for sexually frustrated individuals. It’s not “real” sex. It’s the thing you do when you’re horny and lonely.

Like many people, I discovered masturbation early in childhood. And I’ve gotta give props to my mom, who explained that touching myself was something to be done privately, but did it in a totally gentle, positive way. I never felt that I was doing anything wrong. Nor was I consciously aware that it was a sexual thing to do. All I knew is that it felt really good and it helped put me to sleep at night.

It was seventh grade when I learned that the best part of my bedtime routine had a name: Masturbation. My twelve-year-old mind was well and truly blown

I was fascinated. And confused. By that point, I’d known about sex – at least the baby-making kind – for several years. I  had read a few steamy Harlequin passages and watched lovemaking scenes on TV. I knew what sex was. The private touching I did in my room didn’t seem to qualify.

As I grew through puberty, there was a much stronger connection between my sexual desires and fantasies and my urge to masturbate. But I still didn’t think of masturbation as part of my sexuality. Again, shout out to my mom who gave me books with a holistic sense of sexuality like Our Bodies, Ourselves. Unfortunately, as a teen I found pulp paperbacks, soap operas and other mass media depictions of sex far more compelling. Those sources provided high eroticism for a teenage girl. The turn on was fun. But I didn’t realize until was I much older that I was learning from all that sexy fiction and some of those lessons didn’t serve me well.

I learned that women – at least the “nice” ones – didn’t take ownership of their sexuality. They became sexual because they were desired by someone else, often the romantic male lead. In books, the good girl was sexually passive, waiting for a loving partner to want her and eventually entice her into sexual surrender. Female characters who were more proactive about sex were typically cast as villainous, indiscriminate bad-girls. Even then, sex required someone else’s participation. And on some level, I internalized the idea that “real sex” and true sexuality would only happen when there was another person in the room.

I was well into adulthood, attending my first sex-toy workshop when the facilitator told us that touching our bodies was an essentially sexual act. “Masturbation isn’t just something we do instead of having sex. It is sex.” That was a pretty provocative thought – and not just for the obvious reasons. Masturbation is sex. That simple idea was the catalyst for a major shift in my perception of what sex was. It made me realize that sex belonged to me. The emotions, the desires and those wonderful, hot tinglies were happening to me, in my own body.  They were mine to share with others, to ignore or to enjoy all by myself.

A paper published by Planned Parenthood and the Society for Scientific Study Of Sexuality noted that women who reported masturbating scored higher on a self-esteem index than women who didn’t report masturbating. Which isn’t to say that wankery is the magic bullet to feeling good about ourselves. And it doesn’t mean that we all have to masturbate in order to have confidence. But I do believe that accepting ownership of our own bodies is a pretty powerful act of self love. And on a sexual level, I can see how that acceptance might lead to…well…some powerful acts of self-love!

As a child, it was a joyful instinct. As a teenager it was a placeholder for partnered sex. Now as a woman, masturbation is the kind of sex that reminds me that my body belongs to me.

Happy May, everyone!

Image credit: Amy V. Miller via Compfight cc
_ _ _

Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is also a burlesque performer, poet and playwright, living in Ottawa, Ontario – Canada’s national capital. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.

Next Post
Previous Post

18 Responses to “Why May Is My Favourite Month”

  1. Sheila

    Thanks for this post. I’m a big masturbater but did not start until I was 21. My church beliefs made me feel like it was something I should not do. Now it has been 10 years of nearly daily wanking. I love my private time.

  2. Jen

    My mom gave me the talk when I was 16 after at least a decade of nightly fun.

  3. Lynn

    No problem with the topic, but it would be helpful to add a note at the top about opening this in a public setting.

    • Nadine

      Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn – it’s a good one. I’ll be sure to remember that for future posts.

  4. J.B.

    You description of your mom reminded me of my favorite masturbation story – my friend was giving her three year old daughter a bath, and the girl started touching herself. My friend was momentarily startled, but then launched into her prepared speech, about how it is natural and wonderful but something we do in private. The girl looked at her with big serious eyes for a moment and then said “Mommy, can you please leave?”

  5. Amy

    I wish my mom had been like yours.

    I grew up in a very conservative Christian household where everything regarding sex was put in the “wait til you’re married” category.

    I have been curious about sex since I was at least 5 or 6 years old. I remember making my Barbie and Ken have sex, even though I thought at first sex was just getting naked and touching chests, lol. When I learned what sexual intercourse was, then Barbie and Ken were at it all the time.

    I discovered masturbation by accident. I was about 9 or 10 years old and sitting in class at school. I noticed that rocking back and forth on my bottom in my seat felt really good. Tingly, even. And then I squeezed my thighs together and this intense wave of something I’d never experienced before spread throughout my body. I remember how it made my hand tremble and I’d have to stop writing until the feeling passed.

    And then I was addicted. For a while, I did the combo of rocking my hips and squeezing my legs, but then I found just squeezing my thighs together did the trick. I did this all the time: in class, in church (!), lying on the couch, in my bed. I had found a way to have my own secret thing right in front of people without anyone knowing what I was doing (or at least no one ever told me they knew, though they probably wondered why I slid down in my seat then slid back up, red-faced, lol).

    I think I was about 11 or 12 when I discovered the name for what I was doing and I read about it in one of my mom’s Dr. Spock books. This was also around the time I started reading the “juicy” parts of my grandmother’s romance novels and learned the actual anatomy and physiology of sex from her nursing school books.

    Everything I read told me what I was doing was wrong. Sinful. Against God. Lustful. Etc. And that was even though I didn’t fantasize or anything like that then. I just squeezed my legs together, had an orgasm, and went to sleep. I wasn’t touching myself.

    So, after beating myself up about it, I finally wrote my mom a letter and told her about it. She came to talk to me and I cried and cried and cried because I felt so horribly guilty. And all she told me was, “Amy, these sorta feelings needs to be saved for marriage.”

    That stopped me very temporarily. Instead, I would do it then ask God for forgiveness. I did this throughout high school and part of college.

    In college, I discovered porn for the first time (well, non-scrambled and non-Cinemax) and this sorta opened my mind to the world of sexuality. I knew nothing. I mean nothing. I didn’t even know what lesbians were until college. I didn’t know how they had sex. Nothing. There’s still stuff I don’t know and I’m 30 years old, though I am much more enlightened now.

    In college, I also discovered the massaging showerhead. The showerhead in my dorm, if you turned it a certain way, shot this hard, direct spray of water out and I learned if I laid down in just the right spot or, later stood in just the right spot, I could get myself off that way. My roommate at the time must’ve wondered why I took hour-long showers back then, haha.

    I bought my first vibrator in college. I still had some guilt about masturbating but figured that God wouldn’t have made the parts to work that way all the time if I was only supposed to enjoy those feelings with a partner AND because I’d promised to wait til marriage, I figured He’d rather me do that than go have sex with someone else every time I got horny (which is a lot).

    I have only had the patience to use my hands on occasion where I have nothing else and I can’t go to sleep without it. The only thing about being so used to getting off fast with a vibrator or squeezing my legs together is that I have very little patience with how long it takes to get off using my hands. Thus, it’s very hard for my boyfriend to get me off. In fact, we’ve been together nearly 2 years (he’s the only guy I’ve ever had sex with; sorry God, I couldn’t wait til marriage, I was 28 years old already), and I’ve yet to orgasm with him unless I use my vibe.

    But all in all, I’m not afraid to show him what I like and masturbate in front of him and it’s made our sex life better than I know what I like. Plus, I still do it on my own for myself. I stopped watching porn a couple of years ago, as it (along with romance novels) gave me extremely unrealistic expectations about sex, and I still rarely fantasize when I masturbate, but doing it has helped give my high sex drive some relief and helped me own my sexuality more and more and if/when I have a daughter, I am going to be like your mom.

    And by the way, when I was a teenager, my very inappropriate stepdad informed me that my mom used to get off in the bath tub when she was growing up. So it was funny to me how she told me to hold in all of those feelings and wait til marriage when she did it too. There’s so much shame in masturbation that absolutely should not exist. Even among Christians, ESPECIALLY among Christians.

  6. Andrea

    Lovely post, Nadine. Owning our sexuality (in all its manifestations) seems to me one of the natural aspects of owning our full selves. So I hope it doesn’t seem nitpicky to suggest that the study cited might be blurring cause and effect in saying that women who report masturbating also report higher self-esteem. It could well be that women who have higher self-esteem are more likely to give themselves pleasure—including masturbation—and/or that women who have low self-esteem might be so concerned about how other people view them that they wouldn’t “admit” to masturbating even if they did it. Very interesting.

  7. Stephanie D.

    I think masturbating would help solve a lot of peoples problems! I am HUGE on the notion of helping yourself in all aspects and I think a lot of people leave masturbating out for some odd reason. I honestly feel that loosing my fingers/hands/arms would be a fate worse than death! I would hope that all men and women out there know that it is your body and that it’s ok to take joy in it : )

  8. Sarah

    Love this! I never understood why it was such a shameful topic. I am proud to say that I taught (verbally) 6 of my closest girl friends in high school how to masturbate. They were trash talking in the cafeteria about how gross it is that guys do it, and why would they do something so disgusting?? And I said, UM because it feels awesome! Then I walked them through it step by step. I don’t know why anyone would think it was gross…not gross at all!

  9. A Ginandtonic

    Great post. So much rings true for me.

    “The safest sex you can ever have, is the sex you have with yourself”

  10. Sarah

    I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that I really believe women need to masturbate in order to have satisfying sex lives. How can you expect your partner to know what pleases you when you can’t tell your partner because you don’t know? I wish my partners would have magically known what buttons to push, but I have had to show…all of them, really. That’s the fun of sex though!

  11. Aya

    (I did not grow up religious, so I apologize if I say things that are inaccurate or insensitive out of ignorance)

    Much of the talk I have heard of demonizing self sex and premarital sex seems to come from the Christian Church in the US. As the Church is an old social hierarchical organization that seems largely male, I thought it was a control mechanism from earlier days so that women wouldn’t have so much fun having sex they would (omg) have sex with people and then OH NO how do you know the baby is yours?!

    I look at much of the hand-waving freakoutery over birth control access as discussed in US politics in the same light.

  12. Osprey

    Thank you so much for this post! Although I engage in a lot of wankery (love that word) I always saw it as a supplement or substitute to partnered sex. An awesome supplement/substitute, of course, but it didn’t count as The Real Thing. But when you stop to think about it, masturbation is actually sex in its purest form.

  13. LinB

    Had to think on this for a few days — interesting topic! As a teenager, I somehow got the notion that, every time a human being experienced orgasm, the universe received a deposit of positive energy. So, besides the personal pleasure/relief/satisfaction, I was helping all mankind to a better life. Now, much later in life, I can laugh at my younger self’s smug self-righteousness.

    • mo

      This is priceless! I think I’ll hold onto the “helping mankind” part.

  14. jenny

    What you are saying may lead people down a path of sin and temptation. Our sexuality is a gift from God and is to be expressed only within the confines of a marriage. Using sexuality for purposes of self-gratification is gravely disordered.

  15. Caroline

    Sex, such a small word for such a complex entity…

    With such a complex relationship between the physical and the emotional masturbation is not an option for everyone. Often said to be sex with the person who loves you most that hardly works if you find it difficult to love yourself and life has shown you that others don’t find you attractive either.

    In such a situation trying without a loving partner just highlights the lack of such a partner and can leave you frustrated in so many ways.

    A kiss or a touch which is begged for can have a negative worth, given freely and with desire they are priceless…

    masturbation taken to a climax in an effort to find sleep has left me with feelings of utter emptiness.

    Guess my brain was wired up incorrectly …

    (Interestingly typing carelessly I made a tiny spelling mistake and guess which word could not be understood by the spell check….)