About the author: Allison Leigh is a pornographer, producer, polyamorist, and professional kinkster. When sexuality is business, business is fun!
When I was in my punk phase, I acquired a pin that proudly proclaimed, YEAH, I MASTURBATE. I thought it was hilarious, but I don’t believe I truly appreciated how political the statement was. Despite a thousand euphemisms, masturbation is something rarely discussed and almost never referred to by name. But what if our aversion to calling it what it isâ – self pleasure – is holding us back from really enjoying it?
Handed to us via thousands of years of religious and societal reinforcement, the reason we giggle or shift uncomfortably in our seats at any reference to masturbation is that annoying social shaper, shame. Unlike its sister emotion, guilt, which informs the brain that “what I have done is bad,” shame lacks that key distinction and tells us “I am bad.” Presumably, the function of shame is to encourage us to improve our behavior in future. While shame can have healthy applications, such as making us strive to do better by our peers, feeling like you’re dirty or disgusting is a major mood killer.
Shame has been linked to addiction, perfectionism, depression and low self-esteem – and none of those are drives we want anywhere near our sexuality, save for certain consensual fetish activities. Being ashamed can impel us to attack ourselves, or to externalize our emotions by attacking other people, which causes the cycle to continue. When a comedian mentions masturbation and everyone giggles nervously or sinks into their seats, it’s not because the joke is inherently funny – it’s because we’ve been taught that this activity is shameful. Both the joke and the response are part of a circle of conditioning, passing the shame from person to person. Everyone goes home having the shame of touching themselves reinforced, and no one feels very sexy about it.
So how do we combat the social stigma that causes us to feel so much shame about self-pleasure? After all, we’ve already proven countless times that masturbation is healthy, normal, and even good for you – it certainly seems that we should be over this hang-up by now. We’re conscious that having a good wank is nothing to be ashamed of. Now, if only we could fight the blush rising in our cheeks at the very thought of it…
I heartily recommend freeing yourself from the inherited shame of masturbation, and start calling your “alone time” what it is. In the process, you will start relieving others of that shame as well. Obviously you don’t want to force the topic onto others without their consent, but talking about your feelings and being frank about fingering (or your own preferred method) is the best hope for society to heal our collective discomfort surrounding masturbation. If we can stop passing our shame to others, we can actively create a positive culture and work toward wholeheartedly embracing healthy sexuality.
This post first appeared on MyErotica.com
Ashby, J. S., Rice, K. G., & Martin, J. L. (2006, 04). Perfectionism, Shame, and Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(2), 148–156. doi:10.1002/j.1556–6678.2006.tb00390.x
Capretto, L. (2013, April 18). WATCH: What To Tell Yourself When You Screw Up. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/brene-brown-shame-guilt-addiction-oprah_n_2966351.html
Crew, B. (2018, January 25). Is Masturbation Good For You? Science Weighs In. https://www.sciencealert.com/is-masturbation-good-for-you-science-answer
Gregoire, C. (2016, March 03). The Unexpected Reason It’s Healthy To Feel Shame. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/shame-psychology-evolution_us_56d4428ce4b0871f60ebf5c9
Gruenewald, T. L., Kemeny, M. E., Aziz, N., & Fahey, J. L. (2004, 11). Acute Threat to the Social Self: Shame, Social Self-esteem, and Cortisol Activity. Psychosomatic Medicine, 66(6), 915–924. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000143639.61693.ef
Sack, D. (2015, January 13). 5 Ways to Silence Shame. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201501/5-ways-silence-shame
Wehrenberg, M. (2015, July 7). Shame and Depression. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201507/shame-and-depression