I suppose it was just a matter of time before I got around to writing about masturbation. You know, buffin' the muffin…choking the chicken…petting the cat. It is indeed long overdue, and I apologize for my own procrastination in this matter.
I take a fair amount of pride in pushing the boundaries, and it has been my intention to delicately touch upon this most private subject for some time now. But the time was just never quite right. I don’t mind making others nervous, or even myself for that matter, but there has to be a good reason for it. I am certainly aware that the fine art of whacking the noodle or paddling the pink canoe is both a serious and a scandalous subject to discuss, but it strikes me that we are in serious, scandalous times.
Yet, it would appear that hypocrisy and dishonesty and flat-out, bald-faced lying do not qualify as sufficiently scandalous to ruffle the feathers of the Moral Majority. Even a pretty clear-cut case of treason is not adequately abhorrent to give those who should care the most much of a pause. None of that seems to have moved the scandal needle hardly a whit. And even violence against Innocents, unspeakable atrocities, Murder most Foul, committed against our own children, is somehow a secondary consideration to the “Rights of the Individual” and therefore incapable of eliciting any sustained outrage.
No, in this age, we are mostly immune to scandal. However, I find that just a page or two on the finer points of painting the pickle or pounding the flounder will generate a mountain of outrage and twist the undies of most self-respecting patriots into a very uncomfortable bunch. Somehow the inclusion of sexuality, even the most oblique reference to shaking hands with the milkman or pumping the python leads the Holy and the Ordained into paroxysms of outrage.
If they find that there is a book available in any public place which touches upon the mysteries and the realities and the varieties of sexual experiences, they will certainly be moved to attend school board meetings and library board meetings, mostly boring and organizational meetings designed to improve the way we teach, educate and inform our young people. You know, meetings which held no interest to them previously.
Their fear of real information is such that they will insult, bully and threaten, organize, galvanize and defund in order to remove books which simply hold well-researched, sensible answers for people with honest and reasonable questions. Kind of why we have Libraries, I thought.
I figure a few measly paragraphs on cuffing the carrot or flogging the log should be good for a whole host of book bannings and even a good, old-fashioned book burning or two. I would gladly, by the by, donate some of my own books if they were interested. Well, not exactly ‘donate’. I would ‘offer’ them up for a conflagration, but I would expect compensation for the privilege. It’s generally $15 per if you want to read one. But if you want to burn it, it’s $25. Of course I will sign them all first. I would consider it an honor.
In choosing this topic, by the way, I place myself in fine company. I mean, Mark Twain, the Master himself, did it over 140 years ago. While on a tour of Europe in 1879, he gave a speech to The Stomach Club, a Parisian men’s group of American writers and artists who gathered to eat a good dinner, drink well and, on this night, to hear an address by Mark Twain. The speech was entitled: “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism.”
The biblical scholars among you will remember that Onan was condemned by God for refusing to father children with his sister-in-law. Instead, he “spilled his seed” on the ground and was consequently killed by His God, the Lord of Justice and Charity. Lest one wonders, Christian religions and most of their ministers have since that time considered masturbation a “vile practice” and shamed and condemned all who practiced it. Which was most everybody.
Twain, as I’m sure all are aware, was on a mission his whole career, and to his eternal credit, to attack pretense with satire. And the subject of masturbation was ripe for the picking. It was, he deduced correctly, practically a universal practice. He recognized the hypocrisy of it, the duplicity, the prudishness around it, and could not help but make fun of it. “So common, yet so condemned,” he penned. This is why we have writers. And why we can’t live without them.
The year was 1879, as I said. It was the Victorian Age in which squeamishness in regard to sexual matters was a hard-and-fast rule. The pulpits were full of fire and brimstone regarding the sins of ‘self-abuse’. The Catholics decried it as a Mortal Sin, deserving of Eternal Damnation. And given this warning, we can rest assured, of course, that Priests, forbidden to marry or even fool around, NEVER noodled themselves in an unholy way. God forbid.
Martin Luther stated the act was worse than incest or adultery. And we KNOW that Lutherans would never, ever, shuck their own corn.
Even the medical community railed against the habit, claiming it was an underlying cause for consumption, paralysis and heart disease. And doctors ALWAYS follow their own advice. No weasel whacking for them.
Additionally, there was a widespread body of contemporary writings--tracts, pamphlets and books—committed to “the eradication of the scourge of masturbation.” So, bless his soul, Mr. Clements couldn’t resist twisting the tail of the sanctimonious.
Needless to say, his remarks rubbed Victorians the wrong way. They were not amused. Or rather, his audience was. The freethinkers in The Stomach Club found it wildly entertaining. But Society itself was not ready for a public discourse on the subject of spanking the monkey. Or softening the peach. Or even buffing the banana. It turns out that we only find things funny when we are able to recognize ourselves in the joke. For those who are too rigid, frightened, angry and ashamed, humor like that is threatening and hostile and not at all funny.
So his speech was suppressed for almost 65 years. He preserved the manuscript among his papers, but it was not until 1943 that 25 mimeographed copies of the speech were released. The first printed copies did not appear until 1952. One-hundred copies. Total.
Talk about ‘threatening literature’. Talk about ‘dangerous material’. We don’t bury radioactive waste that long.
I have not seen any hard data on it, but I would suspect that people in the late 19th Century were roping their ponies and whipping their willies with the same frequency that we are now. Which is the same way we always have. For all our war-mongering and sword rattling and bully and bluster, it turns out that we are nothing but frightened weenies when confronted with our own sexuality. And literature or art or music or poetry or anything else that expresses it, we will suppress, burn and bury. Ostensibly to protect ‘the Innocent’, but we all know who we’re really protecting.
So if the concealment for so many years of this harmless, short speech on the common practices of polishing the banister and fisting the mister is not a definition of cultural shame and self-loathing…well, sir, I can’t invent a better one.
And to my mind, we haven’t gotten any wiser in this regard. We witness now the Fear Brigades bullying, suppressing and punishing those who express sexuality in ways which make them uncomfortable. And that which makes them un-comfortable is SELF-defined as a Sin against God.
I have heard the question asked that if God had not wanted us to masturbate, why did He then give us thumbs. And it does beg the question. But I do not intend to question any of God’s motives here. I would be the last to seek answers from the Heavenly Realm. I wouldn’t know who to ask exactly.
But I would not hesitate to ask to see a show of hands of those who have never rubbed one out or orbited Venus. Who have never celebrated palm Sunday or badgered the witness.
There is an old joke that goes 98% of the people in the world masturbate. And the other 2% are lying. And the truth of the matter is not far from that. According to the TENGA 2018 Global Self-Pleasure Report: “78 percent of adults in the world masturbate.” British men and women lead the pack at 96% and 78%. But the Americans are not far behind at 92% and 76%.
And I close here, only with the admonishment to see book bannings for what they really are: Dangerous Fear, Humiliation and Shame.
And with the reminder that May 28th is National Masturbation Day. In fact, the whole month of May is Masturbation Month. Who knew? They never tell us about the good holidays.