In 1994, U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders responded to a question about masturbation as part of United Nations World AIDS Day. Her positive response – suggesting that masturbation might be something worthy of being taught – got her fired.
While Elders was upset for obvious reasons over her termination, others were appalled and outraged that such a seemingly responsible option amidst the AIDS epidemic should garner such censure and were eager to open up the dialogue and encourage safe, stigma-free discussions on this topic.
Thus, on May 7, 1995, Good Vibrations store (see this previous post) launched International Masturbation Day in honor of Elders’ work and to promote conversations about sexual wellness. The celebration has since been extended to the entire month of May.
Now that we’ve got the general history out of the way, I’d like to re-frame the holiday’s moniker.
According to the historical etymology of the word, “The long-standing speculation is that this Latin word is altered (probably by influence of turbare “to disturb, confuse”) from *manstuprare, from manu, ablative of manus “hand” (see manual) + stuprare “defile” (oneself), from stuprum “defilement, dishonor,” related to stupere “to be stunned, stupefied” (see stupid).” [From https://www.etymonline.com/word/masturbation] Consequently, in an effort to further de-stigmatize what should be a healthy activity of self-care, I prefer to refer to it as self pleasure since it is decidedly NOT a defilement, disturbing, or stupid.
Moreover, in the words of George Michael, from his song, “I Want Your Sex”,
“Sex is natural, sex is good
Not everybody does it
But everybody should”
More scientifically, “Studies have shown that sex is extremely beneficial to our health. Sex activates a variety of neurotransmitters that impact not only our brains but several other organs in our bodies.” (OHSU)
And, in the case of self pleasure, it is even healthier since there are no risks of STIs or unwanted pregnancy. Moreover, having sex with oneself is an important way to explore what does (and doesn’t) feel good, what turns you on, as well as experiment with whatever fantasies seem appealing. This information is sufficient on its own, but can also be particularly useful when later engaging in sex with others since you can better understand and share your preferences and desires with a partner(s).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & RESOURCES
For articles on the topic all month long, check out this website: https://masturbationmonth.com/
For those new to the practice of self pleasure, check out these resources:
- Sex for One by Betty Dodson
Until next time, cherished community …
With love and gratitude,
Kitty Chambliss, PCC, CPC, ELI-MP
Founder, Loving Without Boundaries
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