The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Pornish Tuesday: Doing it for, or to, Ourselves

I feel a touch guilty every time I see someone has found this site by searching for “porn Tuesday”. Still happens occasionally. So, a Tuesday, and a post with some porn in it. Links are, entirely, NSFW.

The trailer for Erika Lust’s new film, Cabaret Desire, is out. Caution: trigger warning for sexual assault (one brief scene cut contextless) and vajazzling. I do like her films, but her euro-trash goth vibe I’m a bit ambivalent about. Possibly this is cultural. And this reminds me that I haven’t shared my favourite of her films with you: Handcuffs. That’s a complete short film, and I’m sure it could spark an interesting debate about the concept of “female gaze”. The watcher is female. The object of the gaze is also, clearly, the other woman.

Also, catching my interest, the short for Louise Lush’s new film, The Thought of Her. This is a male masturbation film, and when he says, “I can’t stop thinking about her,” that’s, um, pretty hot.

And it got me thinking. It’s at least possible to see why we have constructed shame narratives around pornography, or certain kinds of sex. But masturbation? The majority of people do it. It’s extremely pleasurable, and absolutely and completely harmless. I just can’t come up with any kind of construction, spurious or not, to see it as harmful. (And before it comes up, the “sin of Onan” was refusing to impregnate his brother’s widow. He wasn’t even masturbating, he was practicing withdrawal. What the Old Testament actually says about masturbation is pretty much “now wash your hands”. Good advice.)

So. Yeah. Wanking. Awesome. Being ashamed of something perfectly normal? Not awesome.


42 responses to “Pornish Tuesday: Doing it for, or to, Ourselves

  1. giovanni August 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    What the Old Testament actually says about masturbation is pretty much “now wash your hands”. Good advice.


  2. tallulahspankhead August 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    It’s because all sexual thoughts, unless you’re thinking about your husband, and how he’s gonna put a baby in you, are bad.

    • Moz August 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Ooh, oh, oh, I can haz husband?

      And also, Emma outs herself as a biblical literalist. My understanding is that modern Christians are more inclined to Paul’s views, that sex is bad in and of itself, especially the sort that involves women. Women are temptresses who must be resisted, as Christ resisted and remained chaste throughout his life[1]. As Mary his mother did, remaining virgin her whole life (while producing Christ’s brothers (and possibly sisters although that’s not clear)). And you don’t get much more sex involving women than women masturbating, it’s like 100% women having sex and enjoying it and stuff, so it must be the ultimate evil. Eeeeeevil!

      [1] this is not actually in the Bible, but sex is bad so he must have done. It’s, like, logical.

      • Emma August 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

        I’d like to think _modern_ Christians had moved on a bit from St Paul the Misogynist. But… yeah. Arguing with Biblical literalists is the Best Fun.

      • Muerk August 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        “My understanding is that modern Christians are more inclined to Paul’s views, that sex is bad…”

        My understanding based on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is more that our bodies are a reflection of the love of the Creator. Our love has a physical component and a creative possibility. What God creates (including our bodies) is good, but it can be used in an immoral way, or to put it another way, in a way that God did not intend for it to be used.

        Our sexual nature has dual purposes that are inseparable – unitive and procreative. The ‘marital embrace’ brings together a couple and is capable of creating new life. Because it is so intimate and important our sexual nature should be shared with someone who loves us unconditionally and is totally committed to the relationship. This is because when we make love we share our whole selves in a total gift of self. Marriage is the sign of that unconditional love and commitment, a bond of two people that can only be broken by death.

        Masturbation is regarded as sinful because it does not involve the total gift of self to the other person. It’s using our sexual nature in a way that is considered selfish. I’m not talking about foreplay here, but a sexual act done alone. Masturbation is not unitive or procreative, thus is it a distortion of the function and object of our sexuality.

        I would point out that sex that is purely procreative is also a distortion, likewise sex that is purely unitive is as well. And when I use the word procreative I don’t mean that every sexual act must make or be trying to make a baby, but that sex is open and accepting of life if a baby is made. Obviously women are not always fertile.

        Of course I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but since Christianity was brought up I thought I’d comment on how I feel about it.

        • tallulahspankhead August 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

          So, as a single woman, I’m not allowed to have sex, and I am not allowed to masturbate?

          Man, my colleagues are going to have to deal with a grumpy Tallulah.

          • Max Rose August 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

            Sure, just as long as you’re not a conservative Christian. If you happen to believe that sort of thing, then you can abstain. If not, then it has no relevance to you.

          • Emma August 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

            Even if you weren’t single, by those rules, you’re not even “allowed” to masturbate your partner, because it’s not procreative.

            Fortunately, humanity has, at no time, ever conformed to those rules.

          • Muerk August 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm

            From personal experience there is a marked difference for me between abstinence under my own strength and abstinence with God’s grace. Now it’s impossible to know whether that is because God is actual or whether it’s merely my own different state of mind and how you interpret it depends on your own biases.

        • Hugh August 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

          Since Christianity was brought up, let me comment on how I feel about it.

          What a load of utter bollocks.

          To say nothing of masturbation, this appears to be a manifesto against casual sex or friendships with benefits, too.

    • Emma August 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Ha, found the link I was looking for: Ms Naughty on Dirty Girl Ministries, and the utterly bizarre “erotoxins” theory. Srsly, the crazy runs real deep with these people.

  3. Isabel August 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I think masturbation is often seen as a (lesser) substitute for sex with another person rather than a Nice Thing in its own right and therefore the refuge of the sad, lonely or unhappily partnered (going along with the myth that your One True Love should be all you will ever need).

    Handcuffs is lovely – elegant and with room for the viewer’s imagination.

    • Emma August 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      I think it’s partly the way her films have no dialogue – which, when you’re making stuff in Europe for a European audience makes a lot of sense in the ‘not having to dub/subtitle’… sense. Bad sentence is bad. But it leaves a lot of room for people to add their own interpretation. Me, I keep thinking, I want my hands cuffed in _front_ of me. Partly for balance, and partly because how would I text otherwise?

  4. Scar August 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    It’s harmful if you’ve just had major surgery on your reproductive organs and getting aroused will make you squirt gallons of blood from your clitoris.

  5. Muerk August 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    “Even if you weren’t single, by those rules, you’re not even “allowed” to masturbate your partner, because it’s not procreative.”

    I specifically said that I was talking about masturbation done alone. It was in the third paragraph.

  6. Jackie Clark August 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I never masturbated successfully until I stopped having sex. Which funnily enough, coincided with my loved one’s chemotherapy, radiation, and loss of sexual function. I think I was 33 or so. I can’t even imagine life without it now. What a very sad world it would be, indeed, if we weren’t able to give ourselves pleasure.

  7. Hugh August 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    There are multiple medical conditions that can be aggravated by masturbation, at least for men. I’m not aware of any for women, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they exist.

    • Isabel August 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Anything that wouldn’t be equally or worse affected by other forms of sexual activity?

    • jack August 25, 2011 at 10:48 am

      In all seriousness, can you provide examples? This is the first I’ve heard of this, whereas I’ve heard about other, more positive effects of male masturbation. For example, regular ejaculation is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer, so DIY ejaculation is probably a good idea if circumstances are such that having someone do it for you isn’t an option.
      And, as per the other comment, are any of these specific to masturbation, rather than sexual activity per se?

      • Hugh August 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

        Well, phimosis is the one that immediately springs to mind. As Isabel says, that’s relevant to regular sex, too.

        • jack August 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

          Hadn’t heard of this one, so I checked the Totally Reliable Font of All Knowledge, which stated that phimosis could be caused by unusual masturbatory practices, and then said:

          “Beaugé noted that unusual masturbation practices, such as lying face down on a bed and rubbing the penis against the mattress, may cause phimosis. Patients are advised to stop exacerbating masturbation techniques and are encouraged to masturbate by moving the foreskin up and down so as to mimic more closely the action of sexual intercourse. ”

          So it doesn’t sound so much like a problem with masturbation per se, but more with specific techniques. To coin a phrase, it’s not the wanking, it’s how you’re wanking.

          • Hugh August 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

            I said phimosis was aggravated by masturbation, not caused by it. If a man suffers from it, masturbation can be painful and can interfere with treatment.

  8. Lilith September 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Emma, I’m sorry to hear the Porn Tuesdays are over! I was feeling glum last night and so I looked at some of your links and they cheered me right up. So awesome to have stuff that’s not only feminist but also fun.

    And masturbation? Makes us feel happy and empowered, so clearly something we should try and avoid. If it hurts? _ur doin it rong_ !

  9. Lilith September 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    If a medical condition prevents normal sexual function, then that’s a shame, but that’s hardly what Emma’s talking about. Walking is good for your health unless you’re paralysed and can’t do it. Obvious point is obvious. If anyone wants to have a serious conversation about sexual dysfunction I’m happy to listen, but I’m not interested in pointless hair-splitting.

    • Hugh September 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Lilith, if you said “If walking is painful, you’re doing it rong” I’d be equally on your back for marginalising disabled people.

      ‘Pointless hair-splitting’ is always the first defense used by people who don’t want to own the way their comments can be hurtful. ‘Oh, I didn’t really mean -that-, everybody knows that!’

      So why do you feel that bringing the experiences of people for whom masturbation is painful into this conversation is ‘pointless’? Their perspectives aren’t helpful? Their needs aren’t important? Why?

  10. Lilith September 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Hugh, I have lived with a serious disability for most of my life, so don’t try that line on me please. As I clearly said in my comment, if you want to have a serious discussion about dysfunction, I’d be delighted. And if I’ve misunderstood your intention, I apologise.

    • Hugh September 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      My intention is to challenge statements that marginalise people who experience pain while masturbating due to medical conditions. And yes, I’m quite serious about it.

      I’m sorry to hear about your serious disability, and I’m sure I couldn’t imagine all the ways it affects your ability to try to live a happy and balanced life. But that doesn’t mean you get to make statements about people with masturbation-related sexual dysfunctions “doing it rong”.

      • Scar September 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm

        Exactly; I felt pretty crappy about the ‘doin it rong’ statement because masturbation does still hurt for me quite often.
        But you’re wasting your breath trying to get this person to own their comment Hugh. Don’t bother. They don’t give a fuck about people like me.

  11. Lilith September 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Hugh, Scar, I don’t mind your criticising what I said, but please lay off of *me*. You don’t know me, and if you want me to discuss things here in good faith, you have to do the same.

    It sounded to me, earlier in the thread, like you were being argumentative rather than genuine. I stand corrected. I am sorry. I’m completely unfamiliar with the problems you describe, and if you’d like to elaborate, I’d be interested to hear.

  12. Lilith September 7, 2011 at 11:10 am

    OK, I was never looking for an argument here. Would it promote peace and harmony if I explained my original comment?

    A lot of young people get told that masturbation will harm them: make them go blind, mad, sterile, make hair grow on the palms of their hands, you name it. What Emma said in her original post was that masturbation is a normal thing most people do for their own pleasure.

    When I said, flippantly, “if it hurts, _ur doin it rong_”, what I meant was, “it’s supposed to be pleasant, don’t hurt yourself!” It was meant to be a light-hearted echo of what Emma had said.

    I certainly *didn’t* mean, “If a medical condition makes masturbation [or sex] painful, it’s your own fault.”

    Clearly, my remark offended some here; that was never my intention. And Hugh, I didn’t grasp that you were offended, because I thought what I’d said was totally harmless. I thought you were picking a fight for the sake of it. That’s why I responded grumpily.

    Then when you said,
    “‘Pointless hair-splitting’ is always the first defense used by people who don’t want to own the way their comments can be hurtful. ‘Oh, I didn’t really mean -that-, everybody knows that!’

    So why do you feel that bringing the experiences of people for whom masturbation is painful into this conversation is ‘pointless’? Their perspectives aren’t helpful? Their needs aren’t important? Why?”

    You were making a whole lot of assumptions about me and my motivations. You said, accusingly, “Why do you you feel that…” when you could have tried to clarify what I actually meant. You could have said, “*Do* you feel that…” (I *don’t* feel any of those things! And I would have said so sooner if you’d asked me that question.)

    I felt I was being personally attacked.

    Does this help you understand where I was coming from? I think we’re all on the same side here.

    • Scar September 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      “Emma said in her original post was that masturbation is a normal thing”

      Whoah, WTF?
      Why the hell are you or Emma) throwing around words like ‘Normal’ in discussions like this?
      Having NO desire to masturbate is just as ‘Normal’ as wanting to masturbate.

      Seriously people, check your language. It’s offensive.

  13. Hugh September 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    That’s the thing Lilith, I thought it quite likely that you didn’t mean to be hurtful, but in my experience, very few people ever do mean to be hurtful. Most hurtful things are a result of people not thinking through the implications of what they say. I’m sure, as a disabled person, you’ve encountered people who say things you find hurtful and marginalising who never intended to hurt you, who indeed were probably horrified to find that they hurt you.

    The fact is what you intended to be read as an echo of Emma’s original post sounded very different to me. Emma said masturbation doesn’t -have- to have negative aftereffects, which is true. Your statement that it will never have negative aftereffects doesn’t repeat her point, it exaggerates it. You went from “It doesn’t hurt for everybody” to “It doesn’t have to hurt for anybody”. Which isn’t true.

    I understand that you felt personally attacked but, with respect, I don’t think that feeling was a reasonable one. You didn’t intend to offend, but intent isn’t magic. If somebody states that they finds my statement is offensive, I find it’s best to assume that they mean it sincerely. Even if you think that your statement isn’t offensive, I think an assumption of good faith is better than assuming the person is just trolling. None of us, no matter how eloquent or progressive we are, are capable of making a statement that it is impossible to interpret as hurtful. Sure, we understand what we mean when we write something, but it’s sometimes too tempting to assume that our own clear understanding of our point is a result of how clear our point is rather than our knowledge of our mind.

    So in summary, I understand where you’re coming from, and I’ve done the same thing myself many times (in this space, no less!). I know now that you didn’t intend to hurt or offend or marginalise anybody in this discussion and that you were trying to make a point I agreed with, but I think you made it clumsily and I don’t regret pointing that out.

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