Taking Things in Hand

There is a danger affecting many people around the world, a danger that we need to protect the young from.  Teenagers and singletons are especially at risk from this.  It is something that has blighted humanity for millennia.  Something we can all do something to stop.   I speak of course about that sinniest of sins-  Wanking.  Choking the chicken.  Bashing the bishop.  Taking a trip with Pam and her five lovely daughters.  Stroking David Camerons Ego.  I am of course talking about masturbation.  Most of the anti-masturbation stuff is aimed at men, because women never masturbate.  Ever.  Apparently.

There is an old joke that goes: 90% of men masturbate, the other 10% are liars.  Now of course there are people who abstain, many religions are against it.  The argument usually features one of two arguments- that it is a waste of seed or that it encourages libidinous behaviour.  Neither of which are actually bad things.  The idea that masturbation might lead to people engaging in sex premaritaly and without the intention of having children pushes the idea that sex in itself is intrinsically bad.  I know a large number of people with varying positions on sex- those who believe it is solely between a married couple, those who think it is sacred, those who don’t really care about it, those who actively enjoy it with many partners.  None of these attitudes are particularly wrong as long as it is your own personal choice.  I find the idea of holding out till marriage an odd one FOR ME and I wouldn’t tell someone who is holding out not to.  I once dated a girl who didn’t believe in sex before marriage- well I say that’s what she believed, in all honesty its what she was told to do.  One of the reasons she ended it was because she didn’t think if we stayed together she could maintain her abstinence.  That I did find rather upsetting as it wasn’t really her choice.  Even masturbation required her to feel guilty and seek forgiveness.  This isn’t how we should be making people feel.

A natural, non harmful and pleasurable act shouldn’t result in feelings of guilt.

Throughout the ages people have tried different methods to try and stop people masturbating.  We have cornflakes because one of the founders of Kelloggs was a staunch anti masturbation proponent and he developed corn flakes to sap peoples desires.  That cornflakes are amongst the most popular cereals and that people do still masturbate shows how successful that was.  Then we have circumcision.  This was pushed in the late Victorian era and still today as a way of removing temptation (again, Kellogg was involved in this promotion).  I never realised why Americans used gym socks to masturbate with until I realised it was because they had no foreskin and masturbation could be unpleasant for many.  There are many reasons to oppose non medical circumcision, but using it to sap desire and destroy a healthy sex life is amongst the most odious and vile.  And there is also the issue that circumcision DOES remove a level of pleasure from both masturbation and sex by removing a very sensitive and nerve filled part of the body.  Some men don’t care, others say they know no difference and if they’re fine with it, then fine I guess.  But ultimately it shouldn’t be common practice anywhere in a civilised world.

One of the latest salvos launched has been from the Mormons.  A video has appeared from the Brigham-Young University that sets out to encourage people to stop masturbating and to help “save” others.  Have a look:

Now the video has three segments- in the first a young man is sat watching porn.  From his expression and obvious non-wanking appearance the porn isn’t very good.  But this is clearly an attempt to make the viewer see porn as soul destroying- his dark brooding eyes, his withdrawn appearance and the darkness of his room all imply a person who is “lost” and not truly enjoying what he is watching.  His dorm room door is open- because clearly hes an exhibitionist and his friend stands behind watching him.  A man, stands watching another man secretly watching porn.  Clearly invasion of privacy is not something the Mormon church opposes.

But the room mate is our hero- literally he becomes a heroic soldier in what appears to be either the first or second world war.  Our wanking protagonist is lost and alone and the hero tries to save him- but is stopped by an evil superior.

Cut to an old man lecturing.  He is using the fighting a war analogy to show that people must help their fallen comrades.  I find this particularly distasteful, especially in the centenary year, to depict masturbation as being injured in war.  Wanking is not like being injured in battle, helping someone stop wanking is not like risking your life to save a fallen friend from death.  Its sticking your nose into other peoples business.  One of the things wars have been about is apparently freedom so seeing war as a metaphor to remove someones freedom is particularly badly thought out.

Finally we are back in modern times and the wanker has sought help- the friend looks particularly pleased – smug even – and we end up with an unintentionally symbolic depiction of the wanker happy and joyous with his pool cue.

Now maybe the video is anti-porn more than anti-masturbation, and there are debates about porn all over the place but they tend to focus on the abuse of women.  This however is about young men not watching porn- the suggestion clearly that masturbation is wrong is the natural conclusion of that, unless people are watching porn for the artistic camera work.

The problem I have is that if someone is doing something that harms no one, even themselves and that they actually get pleasure from it I find it extremely disrespectful to impose your will on them.  Masturbation is a natural part of life.  Many animal species engage in it with no ill effect.  But we have developed the idea in several parts of society that masturbation is wrong.

Masturbation can be a part of a strong sexual relationship, it can also be something to do to kill a few minutes when you’re bored with Buzzfeed.  But ignoring the pleasure aspect, masturbation is GOOD for you.  For a start it has been claimed it can help decrease the chances of prostate cancer.  That alone should be enough reason to do it- though admittedly the evidence is mixed with some sources like The Sun saying its bad for you except if you’re middle aged, then its good!  It also helps boost your mood- an orgasm can help relieve stress and relax you.  There is also a suggestion that masturbating helps you last longer during sex.

Convincing people that a normal healthy behaviour is somehow evil and wrong is one of the most despicable things we can do.  It carries through to sex itself- the idea that women shouldn’t enjoy sex or engage with multiple partners.  Women who have lots of sex are seen as sluts whereas men who do the same are commended.  This in itself is problematic and indicative of the continued sexist attitudes that exist.

Men masturbate.  Women masturbate.  Its something most people do.  Sure, we don’t always like talking about it and its still seen as quite taboo, but that doesn’t make it evil or wrong.  We should always be encouraging better understanding of safe sexual practices instead of demonising them.

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