men, masculinities and gender politics

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Okay, I'll admit it, I'm an orgasm addict. The early 1980s song by the Buzzcocks said it all for me: ‘he's always at it". In an age of people accepting no imitations and wanting ‘The Real Thing" it never gets top billing, but masturbation has got to be one of the most self-satisfying experiences around. There is a delightful symmetry about Oscar Wilde's exhortation to take part in something where ‘the pleasure received coincides with the pleasure given". Sex is all very well, but for a delicious, totally self-indulgent experience, you can't beat a good wank. It can take as long as I wish, or be as quick as I need. There's no correct line to worry about, and it's all perfectly safe. No wonder there's a mini boom in euphemistically named ‘relief massage".

I used to masturbate a lot. I was always being told off for playing with myself while siting on the bus, or scratching at my penis through my shorts when I was a kid. But hey, there was a lot happening down there in those days, and I needed to keep a check on it. I used to hope that my parents didn't see the spots on the carpet of my bedroom, or the wet bits in my bed (which were always miraculously dry by morning!). It was in those early years that I developed my basic range of techniques - usually right-handed, left-handed for a bit of variety and the old (please don't look mum) no hands. I also discovered an answer to that vexing question, just what is the function of the head of the penis? It's obvious really: it's there for the same reasons the rim on the end of a baseball bat - to stop the operator's hands sliding off in full swing.

I had always expected to stop masturbating once I started having sex with other people, especially once I started my first long-term sexual relationship. But I kept wanting to have a bit of sexual time to myself, not to think about my partner for a while and to restore my sense of connection to my own sexual parts. So I just continued to masturbate. I sometimes masturbate after sex, thinking about past lovers or imagining future ones. This has confirmed my belief that, for me, wanking meets a very different set of needs to sex.

I often masturbate when I feel alone. It seems to relieve some of the feelings of fear that I often associate with being on my own. I like masturbating outside too, leaving something of myself: it adds to my feelings of being alone, and also to the feelings which are connected to the excitement about not being caught. I've never masturbated with friends, unfortunately, but I have been intrigued to read about circle jerks which apparently happen in darkened rooms, with adult men lounging around wanking together. Maybe one day!

But at the moment I'm very happy doing it on my own terms, whatever they may be. I sometimes feel like I ought to soak myself in oil and do it in a sensual and whole-body kind of way, but I never quite get around to it. Sometimes I get close, disappearing for an hour or so with a bottle of lube and a box of tissues, but more often it doesn't take quite that long. But that's the joy of it, it takes just as long as I want it to, and I haven't found anyone yet who matches the different speeds and intensities that I know I enjoy. I don't expect to find someone like that either: wanking is something that's just for me. 

First published in the magazine XY: men, sex, politics, 4(4), Summer 1994&endash;1995. XY, PO Box 26, AINSLIE, ACT, 2602, AUSTRALIA. Reprinted with permission. © Copyright 1995