There, I wrote that word out.
What affect did it have on you?
I suppose it depends a lot about how you were raised and your views on sexuality. The more conservative your upbringing, the more ashamed you probably were of doing it; but, more than likely, you still did it. It felt good. It probably amazed you what your body was capable of. It released stress and tension, especially the kind that prevented you from having forbidden real live sex with another person. More than likely it was done in the dark privacy of your room, door shut, lights out, under the covers, noises muffled. You didn’t discuss it with anyone because it seemed– well, depraved.
If on the other hand, this word made you smile and squirm happily, good for you. You may skip ahead to the end!
I had a college roommate who I KNOW masturbated in the dark on her side of the room. It was somewhat embarrassing yet intriguing. On my side of the room, I usually didn’t engage unless she was out of the room, I was a bit more private. Some 35 years later, when enough had happened in life that you no longer feel embarrassed, and among a group of old and trusted friends who openly are discussing sexuality… I brought it up. She denied it. Wow. I was stunned. The shame and embarrassment apparently held over for her.
I grew up with very little instruction on sexuality, in a strict Catholic household. There was no open PDA among my parents beyond a quick peck on the lips. One time at 12 years old, I accidentally walked in on my parents in flagrante delicto… to then be beaten harshly by my extremely angry father as fast as he could get his pants up. During my early puberty years, things were actually quite icy for my parents, and by my mid-teens I became aware that Dad was cheating on mom. And she stayed.
Oddly enough, nudity and the human body had always intrigued me as a kid, and I’d had my share of forbidden “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” behind the bushes. I knew where an uncle stashed his Playboy and Hustler magazines when visiting grandma (in that era, it was little more than naked girls). Hungry for information, I was poking about in Mom’s nightstand when I was about 15 and came up with pay dirt– a book on sexuality, which I recall might have been written for married women trying to find pleasure, rather than duty, in sex. I devoured that book. I learned about the mechanics of intercourse (which at the time I found a bit icky) and I learned about the parts of that private area that heretofore had only had bathroom functions and I’d on occasion been chastised not to touch. “DIrty…”
I vaguely remember the day I was doing some digital explorations of my anatomy, I believe I actually had the damn book in one hand… and I had my first orgasm. Holy crap. Scared the shit out of me. What did I do? That was amazing… but I must’ve broken something! Wowee wow!
I threw the book under the bed and repented of doing that evil deed again.
Until a few days later… and I was hooked and enthralled. It was about the best thing I’d ever felt in my life, and the most effective little sleeping pill on earth.
Mom eventually found “THE book,” and in indignant, embarrassed shock took it back without even thinking to ask me what I was curious about.
But I knew enough to keep me happy for a while.
Ironically, up until my 19th year I didn’t have any interest in intercourse with a man. I had few boyfriends, and the act of penis in vagina repulsed me. The few dates I’d had, when he’d close in for the grope or the rub, even an open-mouthed kiss, I pulled back. I wasn’t “that kind of girl.” So I happily and secretly kept myself pleasured in the solitary privacy of my own room.
At 19 I met a man 18 years my senior, with whom I became infatuated, and after 3 months of secret “dating,” begged him to take my virginity. I eventually ran away from home to be with him (a whole story in itself; suffice it to say a “father figure,” a very decent guy, had shown me unconditional love and affection, and I was starving. He taught me all the good things about human sexuality that I’d been clueless about before).
Masturbation remained my friend through my 20s, but still was always a private occupation in the lulls between lovers. My “Dom” boyfriend, who introduced me to my first toys, did not permit me to use the toys alone or in front of him. I generally refrained making the act of masturbation open knowledge to any man, as I viewed it as a little pathetic on my part, and possibly a turn off to the guy. I clearly did not want to send off signals that he wasn’t “enough” for me. One BF coaxed a lot of my secrets out of me, and was quite impressed when I confessed having had an orgasm in my car driving on a particularly bumpy road with the seam of my jeans hitting “just right.” He happened to be more “open minded” about all things sexual (including being quite polygamous).
When my Christian faith grew stronger, I began to question whether masturbation was “right” (not to mention sleeping around…). I struggled a lot, and sometimes felt it was a pretty pathetic picture… Still, when I married my husband, I couldn’t quite bring myself to give up the two very basic and simple vibrating toys I’d “stolen” from the “Dom,” along with some racy erotica I had penned and my tattered copy of “The Story of O.” Within a few years of no Os from husband, I was back full force to toy-land and masturbation. Somewhere in all of this, I developed a rare disorder (interstitial cystitis) that mimics a chronic urinary tract infection, minus the infection (to which I’d always been quite susceptible to anyway, especially after lots of sex). This disorder has no clear cause or straight-forward cure… and after multiple tests and drug trials, I was scared there might be no cure. Convinced that I was being “punished,” I swore off masturbation, chucked the toys in the trashcan, and faced the specter of a life of celibacy… as orgasms–let alone sex–with my husband weren’t happening. And somewhere, somehow, I was led to feel that masturbation in marriage was wrong.
Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
[Fortunately, the interstitial cystitis symptoms mysteriously went away after about a year. One unproven “cause” was stress. At that point in my life, I had plenty of stress, with young kids and an empty, failing marriage].
The rest of my story: well, it’s a renewed marriage and renewed passion for my husband and me. Our love, relationship, communication, and marriage bed is better than it’s ever been, and we are on a journey of discovery, breaking down walls against intimacy that have long been reinforced due to fears, guilt, and hang-ups. Still, I seemed to cling to the guilt about self-stimulation, and the desire for more release than my husband may give me. I want my husband sexually, A LOT. Of course, given the choice, I want pleasure with my husband and from his attentions. But there are times when he’s not as interested or aroused, and we are learning to be patient and understanding of limitations. We are learning to accept, without judgment, that we have different drives. It doesn’t stop either of us from wanting the other to experience pleasure, or in taking joy in the other’s pleasure.
In the Gift of Sex (Penner) I read the healthiest view of masturbation I’ve ever seen, and it has forever changed my views. The authors start out by quoting a verse from the bible:
“One night as I was sleeping, my heart awakened in a dream… My hands dripped with perfume, my fingers with lovely myrrh. (Song of Songs 5:2, 5)”
The authors then followed with the question,
What part does masturbation play in marriage, if any?
They go on to first cite Dr. James Dobson (a renowned Christian author, psychologist,talk-show host, and founder of Focus on the Family) on the topic:
“Between 95-98 percent of all boys engage in this practice and the rest have been known to lie. It is as close to being a universal behavior as is likely to occur. A lesser but still significant percentage of girls also engage in what was once called ‘self-gratification.’ As for the emotional consequences of masturbation, only four circumstances should give us cause for concern.”
The chapter goes on to list these circumstances for concern: oppressive guilt; obsessive; porn-driven; a substitute for healthy sexual relations between a husband and wife. They basically assert that masturbation for most, from childhood, is a response to a God-given sexual feeling.
As a result of the guilt feelings, so many of us have walked away with a shame from childhood that sex is “good” only when it is “bad.”
The authors spend time reviewing all the classic arguments and biblical references supposedly against masturbation, for freedom without enslavement, and essentially come out with not condemning masturbation, as long as our actions are loving, and not self-abuse, hurtful to others, or enslave us.
In certain circumstances, masturbation is OK.
While advocating always sexual pleasure as a couple first and foremost, the authors allow for extenuating circumstances. “If our adult self-stimulation takes something away from our spouse, then the behavior is not loving. On the other hand, if one partner desires sexual activity far more frequently than the other, the couple might decide that masturbation is the most loving act the highly interested person can do, so as not to put the spouse under pressure.” Also, “there may be times when one partner needs to be free from the pressures of sex for emotional reasons. So while it is possible that self-stimulation could be an unloving act, there is also the possibility that using it to relieve pressure would be the more loving act, not only for the self-stimulator, but also for the spouse.” (Note the authors say that “the couple decides.” I realize in some D/s relationships, this is discussed as a limit. It goes back to a mutually consensual decision. I am working now on always asking SK for permission to pleasure myself… it’s still hard to ask… even though I know he won’t deny me pleasure).
They conclude: “Masturbation can never be seen as a total fulfillment of what we were made to be, but rather as a temporary, incomplete, but sometimes necessary pleasurable physical release, or a step toward reaching greater satisfaction within our relationship…
A snack that will tide us over until the real need can be met.”
I am the “highly interested person” in this marriage– always have been and probably always will be. It’s been the source of so much pain and self-condemnation for me, as the voices in my head denounce me: “He must not love me/feel I’m sexy…” “I’m depraved,” I’m a nympho,” “It’s unnatural to want sex so much with my husband…” “I feel guilty that my high needs insinuate that he isn’t enough.” “I’m giving him performance anxiety by my high desires/demands,” “I’m such a slut.”
All of the damning voices in my head led to anger and blame towards the least guilty party, my husband.
And once I could step away these condemning voices, become honest about who I am, and realize that he loves me to his utmost, to the greatest extent possible for him, I could forgive myself and give myself permission AND freedom.
Permission to joyfully (and gratefully!) accept all he is able to give me.
Permission to just accept we are different and that our drives differ, and to not hold that against him.
Permission to not hold it against me…
…Freedom to indulge in God-given pleasure and still honor my spouse.