Are You Masturbating Yet?

You must know by now that May is National Masturbation Month. I’ve spent many early morning hours for the last few weeks telling the world via interviews on drive-time radio shows — blessedly, this year we’ve mostly avoided the shock jocks whose real reason for having us on the air is to see if they can get us to fake an orgasm. Even better if we’ll have a real one: “I’m sorry, I try never to mix business with pleasure,” I say — that’s a laugh! My whole life is actually about mixing these, but they don’t know that. This year the rowdiest it’s gotten for me was being asked — politely — to bark like a dog, but it wasn’t a sexual thing — it was request from two talk show hosts who go by the moniker “The Big Dogs.”

Why do we wake up before dawn to engage in often fairly silly masturbation-related chat with guys whose job is to yank either our chain or the one to which their listeners are attached? It’s a pretty challenging job to circumvent the worst of the yuks, but if we go along with too much lowbrow chatter, folks might decide to talk to our hard-working mail order staff that way — not a good idea! If their job is to make rowdy repartee, mine is to sound good-humored but constantly return to the important message: masturbation is good for you, fun, something almost everybody does, nothing to be ashamed of, and an activity that could stand to come out of the closet. On the up side, lots of these radio guys are staunchly pro-masturbation — one fellow in Florida assured me he’d be our top money-raiser in the Masturbate-A-Thon, our charity pledge event on Sunday, May 7th. And more than one has offered to be the official National Masturbation Month radio station, although I bet none of them has run that exuberant offer by their station managers.

Really, it’s a treat to get the word out to places like Grand Forks and Victorville, Columbus and Eugene. That’s why it’s worth getting up early — whether it’s a sparring match or a love fest. We can give our web address, our 800 number, and a wholly different way of talking about sex than is common for most folks in those places. That, by itself, is worth setting the alarm and reaching for the phone. And no, I’m not masturbating right now, but as soon as all this PR work is over, I’ll definitely get back to it — it’s a great stress reliever, you know.

Masturbation Month Special Events

If you’re in the Bay Area on Saturday, May 6th, come join us for the wonderful Annie Sprinkle’s special NMM show, benefiting two of our favorite non-profits: San Francisco Sex Information and the health clinic for sex workers, the St. James Infirmary. It will be held at the lovely Castro Theatre at 1:00 pm, tickets are $15 at the door, and Annie wants you to dress “festive”!

Annie’s especially connected to the visual porn world, but later in the month we’ll honor the relationship between masturbation and the written word with a “One Handed Reading” Reading — on May 20th we’ll gather some of our favorite erotic writers at the Women’s Building for an evening of hot and sexy storytelling. If you can’t join us at the event itself, tune in to our first-ever live webcast! Look for more details on our webcast information page.

Some “What’s The Buzz?” Feedback on Gender and the G-spot

Regular readers will recall that our web Q&A column, “What’s the Buzz?”, dealt with questions about the G-spot and female ejaculation back in January 2000. I just spent the evening with Dr. Betty “Mother of Masturbation” Dodson on a trip to New York, and she disagreed strongly with something our columnist said. I promised to include her feedback here — it’s National Masturbation Month, and what Betty wants, Betty gets!

Sexologists and researchers still disagree about G-spot functioning, especially about the fluid expelled by ejaculating women. Is it urine, as many doctors assumed in the past? Is it of a completely non-urinary character? Or is it a mix? For some time most of the information within the women’s community opted for the “it is not urine” choice; others, including some of the researchers who’ve studied ejaculate, now feel that the first quantity of fluid expelled when a woman ejaculates is non-urinary, but if she continues to stimulate her G-spot and ejaculates quite a lot, further expulsions may be mixed with urine.

I’m in this latter camp, incidentally — Betty, my partner Dr. Robert Lawrence and I once arranged to do a dissection to look for the G-spot, something most sex educators, sex researchers, and anatomists have never done. The organ we found was clearly a “female prostate” — the very experienced anatomist who was assisting us said it looked just like a male prostate — but it was too small to hold the quantities of liquid some women can ejaculate. Betty, too, is firmly convinced that women who ejaculate very large quantities are expelling some urine, although the science is not truly nailed down. Maybe sometime in this millennium we’ll know the whole truth. Meanwhile, this doesn’t mean you have to stop trying to ejaculate for fear of wetting the bed. We’re just behaving in a mammalian way. Put a towel down and party!

Betty’s real beef, though, was with the statement that “in the ’70s… thousands of men went scurrying for their anatomy books trying to figure out where that danged clit was and how to stimulate it effectively (do you mash it? rub it? squeeze it? few really knew)…” Betty was right in the center of things in the ’70s; she felt the statement ignored the many men who knew perfectly well where the clit was and how to stimulate it. (In fact, Good Vibrations’ own founder, Joani Blank, was introduced to her own clit and its orgasmic potential by a male partner who stimulated her with his hand after he came.) And of course, Betty herself was the one who taught many women (who didn’t come with an instruction book or divine knowledge about their own anatomy) about clitoral stimulation, masturbation, and orgasm. The bottom line is, no one in those days got excellent sex education (except “in the field,” if they were lucky), and women and men alike were challenged to learn how to have satisfying sex.

And what’s different today? Well, not much, really. Even if all the sex researchers agreed on everything, our society still makes it difficult for many people to access good and accurate sex information. There’s an even greater flowering of books and articles about sex than there was in the ’70s; if we’re lucky, they even contain information that is correct. But just last year my partner and I spoke to a women’s studies class of undergraduates at UC Berkeley, a good many of whom did not realize that the urethra was a separate body opening from the vagina: in the vernacular, that they had “three holes down there.” Say what we wish, information is neither gendered nor as widespread as we’d like to have it — which is why our work, like Betty’s, is far from done.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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