Thursday 1st July 2010
Gestation: 39 weeks, 6 days
One year ago.
Masturbation is not a standard conversation topic for me.
In fact, in the twenty-two years since inadvertently injuring myself as a thirteen year old – to the point that I had to consult my slightly embarrassed and wholly reassuring father about the swelling that I’d inadvertently caused (to which he offered me the sage advice to avoid activities that may lead to excessive swelling or bruising) – I don’t know that I’ve discussed it with another man.
You can talk about golf club grips till your blue in the face, but masturbation techniques?
It’s not really the done thing.
Masturbation has polarised society as far back as there are records. The Ancient Greeks were not the slightest bit fazed by it, thinking it a healthy release. In Ancient Egypt, it was considered a creative act, especially if performed by Pharoahs, during a ceremony, directly into the River Nile. The ancient Indian text, the Kama Sutra, gives explicit instructions on the most enjoyable techniques available. And even into the seventeenth century, nannies regularly used the practice as a method for of getting their adolescent boys to sleep.
Can’t say I ever had a baby sitter like that.
But despite this, the conservatives have always been more vocal. As they say, those that do, enjoy; those who don’t, complain. In the book of Genesis, Judah gets mighty pissed when Onan decides to spill his seed rather than impregnate Tamar. The Qur’an, as interpreted by most scholars, also sees the practice as ‘haraam’, or forbidden.
By the 18th century, as a veil of conservatism fell over the western World more thickly than the sooty pollution of the industrial age, the term “onanism” was coined. In 1716, Dr. Balthazar Bekker, a Dutch theologian, circulated a pamphlet through London, titled: ‘Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, And All Its Frightful Consequences, In Both Sexes, Considered: With Spiritual and Physical Advice To Those Who Have Already Injured Themselves By This Abominable Practice.’
It was a really light read.
It listed the risks of this sin as the following: “Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.” Luckily, he had a cure – a ‘Strengthening Tincture’, at 10 shillings a bottle, and a ‘Prolific Powder’ at 12 shilings a bag.
Thank God for that.
These claims – based on absolutely nothing – became incorporated into science for nearly three centuries. By 1743, Robert James had published his Medicinal Dictionary, stating that masturbation was “productive of the most deplorable and generally incurable disorders”, concluding that “there is perhaps no sin productive of so many hideous consequences.” By 1760, Auguste Tissot furthered the claims, stating that the loss of this essential oil would lead to “a perceptible reduction of strength, memory and reason, blurred vision, nervous disorders, gout and rheumatism, blood in the urine, loss of appetite, headaches, and weakening of the organs of generation”.
* * * * *
So, essentially, masturbation was thought to be responsible for all illness. John Harvey Kellogg saved the day by inventing Corn Flakes, and Reverend Sylvester Graham made Graham crackers – both with the express effort of trying to stop young men from pulling their puds.
By 1870, Ellen G. White, in her book ‘A Solemn Appeal’, said that women who masturbated – being “less vital than the other sex” – were at high risk of developing “catarrh, dropsy, cancerous humour, and inward the decay of the head.” I mean, these people were inventive. Not only do they make this shit up, but they start inventing new diseases. I mean, catarr? Dropsy? Inward decay of the head?
Things began to liberalise at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Governments of Western Europe realised that if they kept propagating fake consequences for jerking off, that they wouldn’t have enough healthy men left to send to war. By the 1950’s, Alfred Kinsey cracked the whole thing open in conservative America by revealing that men have penises and women have vaginas.
Ken and Barbie sure were surprised.
But some people still haven’t caught up. I found an Ayurvedic internet site warning about the risks of over-masturbation: fatigue, lower back pain, thinning hair, fuzzy vision and groin pain. They suggested keeping ejaculations to less than three times per week, for fear of over-stimulating the acetylcholine/parasympathetic nervous system, disrupting liver enzymes and affecting neurotransmitters. The words may have been updated, but the message hasn’t changed.
I’m not kidding. It’s live now.
There is actually someone who is paying to host this site.
* * * * *
Today, most of medical science understands that masturbation has health benefits.
A study in 2009 showed that daily ejaculations, whether through sex or otherwise, improved the quality of the sperm.
Another study in 2003 found that frequent wankers had a lower incidence of prostate cancer, and it is also known to lower blood pressure. It is thought to raise self-esteem and relieve depression. In 2009, the U.K. Government joined several other European nations in encouraging teenagers to masturbate at least daily, in an effort to stave off the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Western world.
And yet, we still don’t talk about it. Men just don’t talk about it. Men don’t chat about having a toss.
We just don’t.
Sure, we joke about it, we jokingly allude to the topic, but that’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever openly discussed bashing the bishop with anyone. My biggest question, the one bugging me before tomorrow, is about the lack of lubrication. Surely I’m not the only guy in history to baulk at the idea of using a dry hand? And it’s not like I can ask advice at the IVF centre – the only pre-requisite for working there is that you have boobs.
So, as I’m writing a book about this whole drama, and revealing my own dilemmas and predilections, I figure now’s the time. I owe it to myself. At least one person.
It’s time I talked to someone.
* * * * *
So there I am, chatting to Joel on the phone, when I slip it right there into conversation.
“I’ve got my semen analysis on Friday.” Smooth as silk.
“Yeah right,” he says. There is a palpable change in his voice, like he’s just taken a step back towards the door. Any male who has been through adolescence has this automatic response – by which, I mean, all of us.
It’s like that old statistic: 95% of males masturbate, the other 5% are lying.
I hear him take a short breath, like a nervous tic, a subconscious association with some memory of nearly being caught as a teen.
Like I said, 95% of us have nearly been caught, the other 5% are lying.
But then his brain catches up, and melts quickly into curiosity.
“So what’s the go?”
“I have to go to hospital to have a wank.” He pauses a moment, catching the pace.
“And they’ve told me that I’m not allowed to use any lubricant. It might contaminate the sample.” He is silent. “So, basically, I’ve got to dry hump my hand for the good of science.” There is another pause. He’s an old friend, but I get the feeling he’s almost at the door.
“And you’re not into that?”
“No way, mate. I’m a helmet.” There is a long pause, like he’s considering his move.
“You see, I don’t mind knocking of a dry one every now and then.”
There you go. I’ve just had my first adult conversation about masturbation.
“Really?” I continue. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Not if you do it right.”
“I guess I’m just not doing it right. I haven’t been lube free for twenty-two years.”
“Really? You know how many years?”
“It’s amazing what you figure out when you’re ordered to beat off in hospital.”
“So they give you a room?”
“I’m guessing so. I’m pretty sure you don’t do it in the foyer.”
“How long do you get?”
“As long as you want.”
“As long as you want?”
“That’s what Cheryl said.”
“I don’t even want to know who Cheryl is,” he says, laughing. “Sounds bloody great.”
“Not for me, mate. I’m circumcised. Doing it without lube is like… It’s like sticking my dick into a hole in a tree.”
“Well, it’s the best I could come up with. It’s no good, mate. And seriously, I’ve got soft little doctor’s hands. Imagine if I was a tradey with callouses.”
“Then you’d have callouses to match on your dick.”
“Good point. Still, it’s no good.”
“Well, wait till you have kids. Then you’ll be happy to ever get to flog the log. You won’t even do it anymore. You’ll wake up one day, and your balls will be that sore, and you’ll just go, ‘well, ain’t that something. My balls are sore because I haven’t ejaculated in weeks.’ And then you’ll go and change a nappy instead. Count yourself lucky.”
“You’ve got the kids, mate. We both know who’s lucky.”
There is a silence.
“So this is a room specifically designated just for this?” he asks finally, still fascinated.
“And nothing else?’
“Does it ever get cleaned?”
“Dude, it’s a hospital.”
“I know, but – what happens if you spill a bit? I mean – those little suckers can live for a while. I remember a story from my ex-girlfriend, about her uni science class. They were doing mouth swabs to see the bugs that live inside everyone’s mouth. So they get this girl, swab her mouth, and then look at the swab up on the big screen. And they see sperm, swimming around on the slide. A few of them. So, being the good little scientists that they were, they start looking at them, at their motility and shit, like that’s what they’d done the swab for in the first place. The girl reckons they been in there a couple of hours.”
“In her mouth.”
“Yep. Just sitting there next to her teeth.”
“Interesting.” There is another pause.
“So,” he continues, “like I said, what if you spill a bit?”
“Well, I guess wipe it up off the carpet, and then just hope that I don’t get Brian’s sample.”
“Good, old Brian, eh? That would suck. That would really suck. You accidentally spill a bit, scoop it up, and then end up with Brian’s kid.”
“Yep. That would really blow.”
“So don’t scoop it up, bro.”
“Oh, no, I’ll be scooping it up. We’re just doing my count. Brian will help with my numbers.”
“Good luck with that, mate.”
“Maybe you could take along one of those spill-proof containers? Tupperware or something.”
“Thanks, mate. You’re a real sport.
“And say G’day to Brian for me.”
And there ends my first conversation.
Piece of cake.
* * * * *