O.G.s of masturbation research
Masturbation has always gotten a lot of bad press, according to the fascinating ‘A handy history’ – an overview of wanking in the Western world.
“Neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of Onanism; it is the destroying element of civilised societies,” claimed J H Kellogg in late 19th Century America.
In the name of saving humanity from its own hands, Kellogg went on to invent Corn Flakes which he believed to be the ultimate anti-masturbation foods.
But luckily in the 20th century, heroic researchers looked at the facts and discovered that masturbation was widespread, popular and essentially harmless – if not downright healthy.
In fact, “When the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) attempted to identify what made modern sex modern, one of the characteristics he identified was the acceptance of masturbation. It was, as he said, masturbation’s ‘coming out’. Now it was ‘widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasure, and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on the part of both sexes’.”
Yet in many ways, masturbation remains taboo.
“Belief in the evils of masturbation has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and in the obsession with the impact of internet pornography. Throughout their relatively short histories, sexual addiction and hypersexual disorder have included masturbation as one of the primary symptoms of their purported maladies. What, in a sex-positive environment, would be considered normal sexual behaviour has been pathologised in another.”
In other words: “people remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex.”
Hands across the sexes
Masturbation is often laughingly derided as the domain of adolescent boys. Not true, according to ‘Study suggests men's and women's masturbation habits aren't all that different’.
“The researchers surveyed 1,452 men and 1,566 women between the ages of 18 and 22 about their self-love rituals, and while there were a few gender differences, the study's findings show that ‘a large proportion of men and women reported similar experiences’.”
In general, boys and girls begin doing it around the same age and do it with a similar frequency. They also both employ sexual fantasies to help the process along.
“Mind you, this study was done in Sweden, where attitudes about sex and gender are so progressive that ‘klittra,’ a word for female masturbation, was part of the Swedish Language Council's official 2015 new word list.”
“Still, maybe the rest of the world could learn from the Swedes: when there's more gender equality and less sexual shame, men and women may not be all that different.”
The rainbow of female masturbation techniques
“Confession: I have spent the last 24 hours wondering how all my friends masturbate. It was all prompted by a website called OMGYes, which has used research on different women's masturbation techniques to create videos and how-to guides on all the different ways to get off. I initially thought 'how much could there be to learn? You just find the clit, wet your fingers, then rub it vigorously like you're trying to start a fire.' That probably gives you far too much info on my own wanking technique, which I think would fall under the category that OMGYes calls 'consistency’.”
“The sheer variety of different techniques is pretty mind-blowing. From women who use a rhythmic system, which literally involves tapping around the clitoris and building to a faster rhythm of taps directly on the clitoral hood, to people who vary technique every few strokes, there are so many techniques I'd never even heard of.”
“So is this something you should try? Well, it costs money (a one-off fee of $39) so that's going to put a few people off, but if you'd like to have these conversations with your partner(s) but you're not sure where to start then it's probably worth it.”
After all: it’s always worth investing in yourself.