Wednesday, May 6, 2015

One Four One: Solitary

I just noticed that the on-line world is full of announcements that May is National Masturbation Month.  And 28 May, every article inevitably tells us, will be the climax of the month, National Masturbation Day. That's just something none of the authors can escape saying. The more recondite articles will cite the history of the event--- back to 1995, to a San Francisco vibrator emporium protesting the dismissal of a U.S. Surgeon General who argued that masturbation should be part of a sex-ed curriculum ---and note that the original National Masturbation Day was 7 May.  At least one or two of the better on-line articles will include photos of anti-masturbation propaganda or of the covers of medical texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries about the diseases and disorders caused by "onanism"--- Samuel Tissot is the big name here, of course, especially if you remember Steven Marcus' "The Other Victorians".

The tone of the articles is always fairly jocular. They mock the anti-masturbation crusades and crusaders of the past (I'm sure you know the Graham cracker story) and make jokes about what you're supposed to do in the other eleven months. More political articles tend to make the (very valid) point that masturbation is a marker for a great many other things. Opposition to masturbation is a very good predictor for right-wing attitudes on lots of other things--- abortion, same-sex-marriage, contraception, sex roles, sexual autonomy, gendered work roles.

Nonetheless, there's always a comic undertone. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. One article that took it as a given that masturbation was "empowering" and should be a major part of one's sexual education and "self-care" also began with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink set of jokes about National Masturbation Month and "choking the chicken" and the horrors of being a street cleaner after National Masturbation Day parades.

National Masturbation Month, like the vibrator emporium in San Francisco (Good Vibrations) that created the idea of the celebration, is a rather gendered thing itself, mind you. The articles take it for granted that there's something celebratory and liberating in female participation, but that male participation is superfluous and...comical. Comical at best. It's also taken for granted that anyone male is such a chronic masturbator that there'd be no need to teach him anything...and that, unlike the female case, there still is something shameful or risible about male masturbation.

I've said this before, a world where words like "wank" and "wanker" are in common use, or where any set of images of beautiful girls is referred to as someone's "spank bank", there's really no way anyone male could indulge in the Solitary Vice and still maintain any self-respect. You can't be male and have masturbation treated as "empowering". If you're male, the Solitary Vice is regarded as some mix of pathetic and ridiculous at best, and as probably creepy, misogynistic, and dangerous at worst.  Even at "sex-positive" playspaces or things like the Killing Kittens parties, while a masturbating female is regarded as getting into the spirit of things, a masturbating single male is regarded as repulsive and unwelcome.

Here in the age of the gender wars, male desire is taken as being inherently suspect and treated as both pathetic ("thirsty") and dangerous. Male desire is seen as threatening, and no one male who hopes to avoid being mocked or "called out" can ever admit to any particular forms of desire. Admitting to particular fantasies is a clear path to being mocked or derided in a way that girls don't have to face.  That's one thing I've taken from the articles I've found at gender wars sites--- never admit to any concrete fantasies, never admit to any particular form of desire. Never, never admit to engaging in fantasies.  Well--- never indulge in any fantasies. The Solitary Vice is not for males. We've learned that from the gender wars.  Male desire is always regarded as unwelcome, sad, and ridiculous. As being inherently violent and about aggression. And the male version of the Solitary Vice is, well, far too easily mocked and held in contempt for anyone ever to consider indulging it in.

There are arbitrary social rules out there for everything. Everything comes with its set of social rankings. It's quite clear these days that if you're male, you can't participate in National Masturbation Month except to make jokes from the sidelines. No one male could be a promoter of the event. Certainly no one male could be a spokesmodel for the event. And in the other eleven months, well, if you have any shreds of self-respect left in your life, you certainly can't surrender to the (ideologically suspect) sad habits of onanism. Pleasure is itself suspect these days; we know that. Self-pleasuring is a gendered thing now, and it's not for males.  Desire itself is suspect, but it's very clearly not for males.

But how did we get here? That's something I've puzzled over here in the new century. The male version of the Solitary Vice was never regarded as aesthetically attractive, but how did we get to "wank" and "wanker" as common terms of contempt? How did we get to something like National Masturbation Month being increasingly gendered--- empowering for females, a contemptuous joke for males? Any thoughts? If you're out there anywhere over the aether reading this, tell me your thoughts.

As for me, a gentleman of a certain age, I have few enough shreds of self-respect left. But I will hang on to what's left of them. There are things one can simply never do--- more and more of such things, really.  But I won't risk mockery and contempt. I won't risk becoming a victim to the spirit of the age. There are just things one can never, never do, or even consider doing. Better avoid the risk. It's just that simple.

1 comment:

ms.gylcerides wilde ride said...

I think the whole "empowerment" thing comes from a long history of viewing male sexual appetites as wild and uncontrollable and dangerous and those of women as barely there and benign. Therefore, when women do it--empowering, when men do it--creepy and dangerous. Just a thought. I think it has little to do with the act itself because honestly everyone does it----those who don't even on occasion have very serious issues, I think. A friend of mine recently told me about a story from when he was young: He was having "Issues" with stuff, so he asks his dad whether he also had those issues, and his father was appalled saying he never "did that." What a way to scar someone for life! A general climate of fear, embarrassment and disgust prevails when there's no reason for it.