Friday, September 08, 2006

Masturbation

Heading south. Southern comfort. A night in with the girls. Letting your fingers do the walking. Paddling your own canoe. She-bopping.

FTN has kind of an interesting post on masturbation. I was about to just comment on his site, but I realized that anything I have to say on the subject is way too long for a comments section.

Those familiar with FTN know that he has sworn off masturbation, along with pornography. I don't quite agree with some of the things he says about masturbation. For instance, he argues that habitual masturbation can lead to a selfish sexuality and that he wants to be in control of his sexuality, rather than letting it control him.

This may well be true, but then, I think its also true of any interest that gets a little "out of hand" (wow, he is right about how hard, I mean difficult, it is to talk about this subject without double entendres). Any of these interests can become somewhat compulsive and interfere with a relationship. I have known wives of obsessive golfers who would be relieved if he took up masturbation instead - at least it wouldn't take so long or be as boring to watch! There seems to be no obvious reason why masturbation presents a specific, rather than a general, problem of the pursuing of interests that cut out the partner and ignore their needs.

To me, masturbation is just a natural thing. And its a very early impulse. I notice that my Little Dude already touches himself sometimes - sometimes for fun, and sometimes for comfort, particularly when he is a little tired and upset. He has a healthy and innocent interest in his little joystick. And, while when he is older we might have a little talk about things we do in private, I refuse to do anything that might make him feel bad about doing it.

Porn I feel somewhat differently about. I have issues with porn, although they are more feminist in nature to do with the types of choices women have, and especially the choices of the women who appear in the porn. Although it must be said that if I thought pornography would rev up my partner, I would cheerfully paper the bedroom with it and exploitation of women be damned!

Anyway, I respect FTN's choice. I can see why he is doing it (or not doing it!) and it seems to be having a positive effect on his relationship with his wife, his God and himself. Good for him.

Now, FTN has asked if I have seen a time, either in me or in a spouse or partner, that masturbation has seemed to become unhealthy or cause problems in a relationship? Either physically or emotionally?

Yes, of course I have. I think it would be a significant problem when a sexual relationship with a partner is clearly being replaced by masturbation, aka Tajalude's and So Gone's former situation and perhaps a continuing situation for C-Marie. Now, that would seriously piss me off.

But what if a person does not have a partner who wants to share their sexuality together? What if they do not have an eager, willing spouse who is waiting for an approach from a person who is already sated by masturbation? What if their partner regards what should be a shared joy as a burden or, at least, a responsibility they cannot fulfill?

In that case, I feel, masturbation is not a selfish activity, but a selfless one and an aid to the relationship.

I am not a naturally celibate person. But prolonged, and I mean very prolonged, periods of celibacy have been forced on me by my partner's illnesses. Sometimes years have gone by of having sex 2-3 times per year. I find that, while I can just about get by for weeks and sometimes months without sex, I couldn't do it without masturbation. To me, masturbation is a blessed aid in situations of prolonged, unwanted celibacy. It helps take the edge off. It gives me a way to meet a least some of the needs that my partner is incapable of meeting.

And masturbation meets a very specific kind of need and situation. I mean, my partner's illness also has an impact on his capacity for conversation. I would be very conversation-starved if I was relying on him. But I can meet my needs for conversation with other people. He doesn't mind that. I can chat to other people all day, if I like - face to face, on the phone, on the internet, any method of meeting that need for conversation is just fine with him. He feels very differently about my meeting my needs for sex with other people. Hence, masturbation.

And I do not think my tendency to grumpiness and resentment about lack of sex, and the effect of that on our relationship, would be helped by cutting out the masturbation. I think they would be much worse.

And, to tell you the truth, I do not think it is such a great idea for a woman who goes out to work every day and meets attractive men all the time, to leave her sexual needs completely unmet.

If I have any issue with masturbation nowadays, it is just that it is not enough. I can have very rich fantasies while masturbating that I thorougly enjoy. I can have very powerful orgasms while masturbating, sometimes more powerful than those I have with my partner. But I don't get that feeling of closeness and of intimacy. Masturbation, for all its joys, is a lonely activity. It is a substitute for the real thing, and I would dump it in a heartbeat if the real thing was available.

Now, I have a tangential thought to share with you. I did not find my churchy, evangelical upbringing, including its teachings on masturbation, helpful to healthy ideas about sexuality. I started masturbating when I was ten years old. Despite my many vows to abstain as a teenager, I was never able to stop for longer than a few weeks or months. All those teachings did was make me feel guilty and ashamed of what was basically natural. Not just guilty and ashamed about masturbation, but guilty and ashamed about having sexual desires at all.

And the thing is, I think that masturbation, as opposed to some of the feelings I had about it from that kind of teaching, was actually good for me. I think it is helpful for a woman, who is often dealing with men who know very little about female sexuality and have very stereotypical ideas about what "should" work for her, to know what gets her off and be able to communicate that with confidence.

And in many respects, I find these churches promote very unhealthy and unrealistic ideas about sexuality and marriage in general. They tend to promote stereotypes about the responsibility of girls to put the breaks on male sexuality - without more than the occasional nod to the idea that she has sexual desires, too, and that they may even be stronger than his. They reinforce quite sexist and unhelpful ideas about girls who have been "used" (a charming expression that was quite common among the men from our church) or not. I was quite shocked by the general disrespect of young Christian men towards women. And with the strong emphasis of these churches on waiting until marriage, they tend to push relatively young, inexperienced people, who are not really mature enough to choose a spouse, into rushing towards marriage.

And most of all, I think they promote quite unrealistic ideas about marriage itself. I think that my friends and I were really given the impression that a few years of difficult self-control would be followed by no-holds-barred, fulfilling, God-intended sexuality that would be all the sweeter for having reserved ourselves for each other.

I think most of us have found that long-term sexual relationships are far more tricky than that, and that we were quite unprepared for issues like differences in desire, the impact of children and mortgages, the possibility of traumas like long-term and serious illnesses, and the emotional and other kinds of abuses that can take place when one spouse feels "entitled" to sex because they are married. We regarded our singleness as our "tough" time sexually and marriage as an answer to all that.

And most of us found that we were like marathon-runners who thought the race was over when it had barely begun. We crossed what we thought was the finish line only to find that it was actually the starting post.

We used to ask each other if we believed in sex before marriage. Now, we would probably ask each other if we believed in sex after marriage.

12 Comments:

Blogger Tiny Tones said...

I think FTN's been thinking about it too... erm.... hard. Must have too much time on his hands, or too much something on his hands. Best I stop while I'm a head - I mean 'ahead'.

4:42 PM  
Blogger oldbear said...

Bravo! for virtually every paragraph and sentence is right on!!!

Only Damn thing is, I will have to wait a while before the article I was going to do in defense of masturbation.

BTW, I think the one time it might sometimes be bad is if a married man does it so much he does not have enough wood left for his wife, or maybe worse he is so hung up on fantasies and porn he does not see her, appreciate her, and nourish her in all her desireable sexual Glory.

8:27 PM  
Blogger freebird said...

Emily, you've put your finger right on it!
Ermmmm.....
I mean you have articulated everything I've always thought about the subject but couldn't put into words.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Speaking from experience, both from similar church-teaching and marriage situation contexts as you have experienced, I can't agree with you more. It is nature's way for some of us to properly cope and so I strongly feel that it exists for a purpose, all of course used properly and not over indulged. You know - too much of a good thing ... (but I digress) - jack and jill off away, folks! (evil grin)

4:33 AM  
Blogger trueself said...

Thanks, Emily, you have articulated very well things that I would have stumbled around trying to say them.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

Your post was perfect, every paragraph, exactly what I was thinking/feeling when I read FTN. And as someone who was raised in a strict evangelical household I can definitely relate to the guilt. It took years for me to not feel guilty about my sexuality.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

Speaking as someone whose husband faslely represented himself as having a low sex drive, only to turn me down (maybe not so much as turning me down, although that did happen, but also to completely shut down the process of pursuing me) repeatedly and then masturbate 2-3x's a week (resulting in HIM getting some action at least 3-4x's a week, whereas I was getting only the sex he was having with me.)

Speaking as a woman, being turned down, being ignored, blending in the the scenery despite your best efforts to seduce, in favor of watching a blowjob on the internet while you toss off, is completely and utterly devastating. I do NOT have a problem with masturbation... I really don't even have a problem with porn.

What I DO have a problem with is both parties not giving 100% (effort and honesty) and allowing your partner to visibly suffer, and not taking the time to self reflect and realize that your selfish acts are behind your partners' unhappiness.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Thanks, all

Taja - I hear your pain, sister. Your husband was lucky you didn't leave. Not just because of the humiliation, but also because of the deception.

5:41 PM  
Blogger cagedone said...

I think it must be masterbation weekend or something. Digger has a poll on it as well !!!.

Well I have to admit I don't see anything wrong with it. Even if my wife and I did have regular sex I would still do it just because I am a horny toad. Of course if I found it was interfering with my performance then I would calm it down but honestly one of my most favorite activities is reliving the night before (on those rare occasions)

When I masterbate the best sessions are always about my wife, I try and think about other women , particularly if my wife has been cold and icky lately, but usually I always end up thinking about her towards the end...winx

Some people say that women like to masterbate about as often as they like to have sex....lol...wellll.....I spose its true for guys as well....I guess I would never get out of the bedroom :!!!!

10:22 PM  
Blogger FTN said...

Hmm, there's so much here to comment on...

I don't really think my own thoughts on masturbation are going to change anyone's mind. It's more of a conversation starter than anything else. Regarding the "religious" aspects: I'm an evangelical Christian myself, and I suppose I was raised that way, but I can't really think of a specific time that I was taught anything about the morality of masturbation. The issue of lust, however, is definitely a Biblical one, and that's more of a problem for me. But that's my struggle, and it won't win any arguments with someone who isn't trying to follow the Bible.

I do agree with you, Emily, on some of the shortcomings of the Christian church with regards to teaching on sexuality. That's the difference between God and Christians. God: Perfect. Christians: Not so much. I understand what you are saying about teaching "responsibility" to Christian teens and young people. Female sexuality is often underestimated (as proven by a couple of girls I dated in high school and college!). I think if a couple are going to wait for marriage to have sex, then the GUY definitely needs to be on board with that. If it's just a matter of the female trying to "put the brakes on his sexuality," as you put it, well then that probably won't work.

I am a little bit surprised to read about the general disrespect of young Christian men towards women. I'm sorry to hear that. I canNOT say I saw the same thing where I grew up. We were taught to be very polite and respectful, most especially towards women.

Rushing into marriage: That's a tough subject too. I mean, since I was trying to wait until marriage for sex, I wanted to get married! Because then I could have sex! 2000 years ago, most Jews were marrying by 15-16 years of age, right? That makes it pretty tough for those of us that wait for 21, 25, 30, whatever. Now, I'm not saying that means I shouldn't follow Biblical teaching, I'm just admitting that it isn't easy. I've seen plenty of cases where people got married at 19 and were divorced in 5 years. But then, my parents were married at 18 and have been married for nearly 40 years.

One last thing: You wrote that There seems to be no obvious reason why masturbation presents a specific, rather than a general, problem of the pursuing of interests that cut out the partner and ignore their needs. My response would be that a SEXUAL interest is quite different from any other interest. While masturbation and golf can both become a problem if they are addictive and taking the place of a spouse... I feel as though golf is a hobby that can be shared with anyone. Spouse, friend, coworker. But sex is a little more special than that, don't you think? Some people might have the "free love" ideology, where sex is just a physical act and can be done with anyone. But I prefer my sexual activities to be shared with my wife.

I'm not saying that masturbation is an awful thing that we should all stop doing this very minute. I'm just saying that some of us have become a little bit too "free" with our masturbation habits, and there may be emotional or physical "side-effects" that we don't initially realize.

Sorry for such a long comment!

7:37 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

FTN - Actually, I love long comments.

I'm a bit puzzled, though, about your last point, the one about how a sexual interest is quite different and shouldn't be shared casually. But isn't the point that masturbation isn't sex, its not something shared with another person, and that it actually helps to prevent sex being shared with anyone other than one's partner?

6:13 PM  
Blogger FTN said...

Emily - No, masturbation isn't sex, but it is most definitely sexUAL. And I'm not sure about it really ever preventing affairs, if that's what you are getting at. It would be interesting to see some sort of study on that, but there's just too many other factors, I suppose. The thing is, at least for guys, masturbation doesn't really "cool you off." It does more to ramp UP your sex drive. I really don't think a guy constantly masturbating because his wife won't have sex with him is going to be any less likely to have an affair.

As for women? I have no idea. I am definitely not an expert on female masturbation, so I'm only talking from a guy's perspective here.

8:25 AM  

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