Nothin’ to be ashamed of

It’s a stage you go through, as a young man. You’re worried you’re tossing off too much. It’s a fact of being a teenager. Wanking is grubby, dirty, embarrassing. If you were born in earlier parts of the last century, you might have been told it would send you to Hell. Or make you go blind. If this were the 19th century, you’d fret it’d turn you into a delinquent, a criminal, a deviant.

It’s a stage you go through, as a young man. You’re worried you’re tossing off too much.


Even if you were born into a more ‘enlightened’ age, there’s probably a stage in every bloke’s late childhood where he worries he’s jerkin’ it too much. You feel guilty about it, and it’s the worst sort of guilt, the type that cannot really be shared. ‘Wanker’ is an insult, after all. You consider going cold turkey – dismiss it as impossible. You try to cut down, like a smoker reigning in the fags. But it’s tough. Your brain is a messy jumble of sex hormones. Your penis is making a strong bid for the controlling stake in your daily life. There are fit girls everywhere. And…wanking is brilliant. You can’t really help it.

Girls may go through a similar stage, I can only speak for the males in this instance. Female masturbation is certainly taboo, but it’s a taboo of a different sort. In either case, it’s something that no one really talks about in a meaningful sense, and I can understand why. Sex education in my school was largely crap, but I can imagine the uproar if a teacher had elected to advise about masturbation, instead of just carefully acknowledging its existence and then going back to the fallopian tube diagram. If my dad had taken me aside when I was a kid and offered me some tips about buffin’ the rod I would have run a mile. And he’d have been arrested, poor chap, so it’s probably best it was left as an open secret.

What this means is that you get by on hearsay and conjecture. This is difficult because, in most cases, teenagers are completely full of shit. The only solid thing you have to go on is that masturbation is something to be vaguely ashamed of, and the logical extension of this is that if doing it occasionally is a little bit shameful, doing it all the time is a lot shameful. The more you do it, the guiltier you feel.

You tend to grow out of it, for a variety of reasons. The first is that the youthful exuberance that allowed you to knock one out four or five times a day had departed. Your hormones have settled, your brain is (mostly) in control of your willy, you have a better handle on sex and its place in your life. The next is simply time – now you have a job and bills to pay and your own meals to cook there simply isn’t time to discreetly retire upstairs every 20 minutes.

Do you have a serious problem if you still do it multiple times a week, even multiple times a day?

This is not to say you’re done with combo-wanking. What else are you going to do all day when you’ve chucked a sickie from work?

And the guilt might have faded a bit. But it’s probably still there, somewhat increased by the fact that sex is now more of an option. Have you failed as a man if you find masturbation a good alternative to sex? Do you have a serious problem if you still do it multiple times a week, even multiple times a day? Should you be ashamed if you carry on masturbating even when you have a partner? If you’d sometimes prefer to jerk off than have sex with your partner, is your relationship atypical, or even broken? Should you break up with them?

The answer to all these questions is an indifferent, lazy “nah.” All of the above is perfectly natural. Masturbation is embarrassing, but that’s mostly because it’s private, and deeply personal, and what’s private in that manner is difficult to share. But being something you keep to yourself doesn’t make it something that you have to feel guilty about. It’s just something you do, just for you. It’s no one else’s business.

As we develop as a sexually communicative society our awareness of masturbation grows. It’s become not only a topic, but an industry! Male masturbation aids have developed more slowly than vibrators and the like, perhaps because we get by fine just with our hands, but I suspect it’s largely due to the lingering stigma that surrounds men bashing the bishop. Women might be embarrassed if someone found a vibrator in their bedside drawer, but it’s becoming a more accepted matter. The poor dude whose fleshlight is discovered faces social suicide. He certainly wouldn’t get laid that night (it’s a good some are so discreet.)

There is a darker side to this, which we should address for the sake of balance. Masturbation can become an addiction. In fact, pretty much anything that generates a pleasurable reaction can be abused. You can get psychologically addicted to lots of things, all of them benign when used moderately. You could get addicted to chocolate, if you really worked at it.

So if you’re giving up other things you enjoy in order to masturbate, or you have to do it in order to feel tolerable at 2pm, then perhaps you need to address your dependency. If you’ve been doing it all afternoon because it’s raining outside and there’s nothing new on Netflix, then no, you have nothing to worry about. Pretty much everything you learned about sex as a teenager turned out to be wrong. Why should masturbation be any different?

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