What do you think of when you hear self pleasure? Masturbation? bad things? Sin? Dirty? Guilty? Shameful? Or release and relaxation? blissful orgasms? happy hormones? And relief from stress and anxiety?
For the longest time in our history, the human body has been represented as the receptacle of lowly materialistic sensations that needed to be repressed or somehow defeated . Religions of all kinds condemned self pleasure as an ungodly practice that would bring punishment and disease and would send the sinful pleasure-seekers straight to hell.
Even Some so called scientifically-minded professionals chose self pleasure as their target to explain a slew of personal and social problems. Mental illness at one point in Europe was explained as the result of degeneracy that is brought on by perverted sexual habits such as masturbation. Some followers of this line of thinking in the United States came up with foods that would dampen the sexual desires of adolescents and adults in order to protect them from such degenerate practices. Graham Crackers and Corn Flakes are the two most well-known such inventions.
Others have tried to deter youngsters from touching themselves for pleasure by imaginary threats, such as hairy-palms, blindness, loss of libido, sexual diseases, and so on and so forth. The fact of the matter though, is that self-pleasure seems to be a natural part of human life, even in the womb. Fetuses have been observed touching themselves in their own genitals in ways that can be only interpreted as masturbation. Our closest research counterparts, I.e. rats, are shown to develop better cognition when mother rats lick the genitals of their pups. A newborn rat who is deprived of genital touch ends up not being as smart as his genitally-pleasured peers.
In our own human history, there have been cultures in which attention to sexual pleasure has formed a central position in mental and spiritual growth.
Dogmatic beliefs aside, we now know that orgasmic pleasure is good for physical and mental health. On the other hand, self pleasure can help us recognize what we genuinely desire and what we do not. In other words, we can find out about our turn-ons and our turn-offs. The advantage of knowing these things is that we can bring them into our sexual interactions with others and we can be aware of our desires and arousal. And we can ask for what we need and we can say no to what we do not like. This is good for cultivating intimacy and healthy relationships. This can help develop a culture in which we can talk about sex without shame and we can communicate about sex with our partners without fear of rejection or shame.
MALE FAKE ORGASM
Men want one thing and one thing only. We all know that. And what is that? A man needs to have his sexual needs met (which is quite straightforward and visible to the naked eye) and urgently, too. Because if you don’t satisfy a man’s urgent sexual needs, he will get angry and might hurt you. Right?
Boys grow up without knowing their capacity for pleasure. Most find out about sexual pleasure from friends and/or commercial porn. Fragments of “sex ed” information added to rumoured facts about what is required and what is cool in sexual interactions make up the bulk of a '“cool boy’s” knowledge about sex or his own sexuality. Secrecy, shame, social expectations, and patriarchal cultural norms are the background of the boy’s sexual act, not a very warm and welcoming path to sexual maturity.
Over the years boys and young men come to master the craft of reaching climax in the shortest amount of time. The act of sexual climax provides a relief from stress and anxiety. Over time, the natural physiological process of arousal and climax becomes a pressure release valve that enables the boy to continue appearing and functioning as a ‘normal’ human.
At the same time, culturally, boys are brought up to steer clear from feelings. Those are “for girls”.
This quickening of deficient sexual maturation alongside the suppression of softer emotions (such as hurt, sadness, and empathy); which has been the norm in parenting young boys, results in blocking the boy’s access to much of his true feelings including his sense of pleasure in his own body. All emotions rise from the body and reach our awareness through the same channel. Once you cut off access to one emotion you cut off access to the rest.
As a result, many of us are left with one strong emotion, i.e. anger, and a superficial medley of a few feelings. But mostly a longing for feeling real in ourselves and feeling closeness with others.
In brief, tears become taboo and sex becomes stress relief. At this point true sensual pleasure, the kind that takes over one’s whole body and feels heavenly, is a far faraway galaxy.
This is how we end up ‘faking orgasm’. We fake pleasure when we are experiencing a relief from pressure. It is the difference between gulping down a quick hot dog when you are too hungry and sitting down for a slow dinner with friends. You can go on satisfying your hunger with quick and mindless bites or you can sink into the rich pleasures real food can offer.
Over time we have come to believe that what we do furtively (as seen in movies) is ‘proper sex’. And we have pretended so convincingly that our partners have come to also believe that they know what our ‘pleasure’ looks like. It is as if we have convinced everyone that cooking with a bit of lard and some salt is real cuisine. Who needs all those fancy spices, distracting tastes and textures, those confusing mixtures of colours and fragrances?
A mix of bad sex ed in schools, incompetent parenting, and an overarching patriarchal system of controlling all bodies, results in an incomplete, underdeveloped, and disembodied culture of sex. The point here is not that we should all learn to have good sex. That… should be an accessible option for all. But what is more important is that we must recognize what we have lost in all this: our sovereignty over our own bodies. We must do our best to re-occupy our bodies by reconnecting with our senses and find our sensual nature.
Sex is not a pressure release valve only. It can be that. And it can be a lot more than that. Sex can be a way to enter boundless intimacy with an other and with the Self. Sex can bring us to the heights of ecstatic bliss and face to face with our Spirit.
To experience deep pleasure in our bodies is to show up as our full selves in relationships, which is the doorway to intimacy. Buckled under socio-cultural pressures we have guarded ourselves against intimacy as a natural outcome of guarding against feeling sad, or hurt, or needy; against wanting connection. We have been told over and over that we must not need anything or anyone, that we must be and feel ‘okay’ without.
As men we can find our power, our heart, and our purpose in sex. And it is not as hard or far fetched as it might sound. Coming back to our senses, connecting with and feeling our body sensations, and allowing ourselves, bit by bit, to feel pleasure, can expand our capacity for life and for closeness, first with ourselves and then with others. It might be hard work, but we can do it. We are Men after all.
LET’S OBJECTIFY MEN
We have objectified women forever. Proof? It is easy to see that if you look at mass media rags or social media feeds where women’s bodies are most portrayed in generically eroticized forms and ways. Even “Venus of Willendorf”, despite its claims to be evidence of the ‘golden age of matriarchy’ does not offer more than anatomical symbols of sexual and reproductive parts of a generic woman.
Whether the artist-shaman of 35,000 years ago meant to present women as sexual objects or had loftier intentions we might never find out. The point is that over the millennia, with the gradual concentration of power in the hands of men, the devolution of women into powerless objects of men’s sexual desire became more solidified until we all came to assume it was normal, and “natural”, for women to be less powerful than and in service to men.
All this history has not made women feel more desirable but more vulnerable and subject to the man’s whim and will; not a safe position in life for anyone.
On the other hand, men have also equated manhood with power and desirability with loss of power. Big muscles, big cars, big wallets; all remind us of a man’s power. Delicate frame and handsome features on the other hand might emasculate a man and evoke in others a desire for his sensual nature. So, our secret motto as men became ‘Be big and powerful! Be strong and rough! Get all you can!’
We have lost a lot in this process. We stopped caring about ourselves long time ago. That is why we don’t know much about our bodies and desires anymore. Our greatest difficulty is saying ‘YES’ to what we truly desire because a) we do not know it and b) we are afraid to appear vulnerable. We never feel safe enough to go there.
So, here’s an idea! Let’s objectify men! By that I mean, as lovers of men, ask your man permission for you to take pleasure from his body. As a man I imagine how it might feel to allow my lover to use my body for their own pleasure. I would feel vulnerable, but comforted in knowing that I will not be harmed in anyway. I would also feel confused, maybe even surprised, that my body can be a source of pleasure for someone who cares about me. That without me needing to do anything I can be a source of pleasure is in itself a source of pride, a boost to the good old ‘self-worth’, maybe even a transformational life event.
Maybe by objectifying men, and allowing ourselves to be objectified, in this conscious and intentional way, we can bring some long-awaited balance to the dynamics of our desire and power. We might even feel the sweet taste of surrender to our sensual nature.
WHAT IS SEX TO YOU?
First let me tell you what it was, is, and hopefully will be to me.
I was brought up in a Moslem culture that regarded sex something of a necessary evil. I know now that what I learned in that culture I would have under Catholic, Judaic, or basically any other religious system. They all aim to shape and control their followers first and foremost through restraining their bodies and repressing their natural desires. Why? Because nature is wild and out of control and apparently needs to be put into firm structures, trimmed back, fenced in, and watched closely or it will take over the clean and shiny world of men.
So, I learned that sex was dirty, sinful, secretive, vague, unknown, and mysterious. Everybody wanted it but it could not be talked about. Everybody knew that there was something juicy and delicious in it but nobody was willing to name why it was so desirable.
Most people, all boys as far as I could tell, looked to their own bodies to find out about this Sex thing. Girls and women, I learned, would not do that because…well…somehow they were either decent and waiting for a man to do the sex with them, to them rather, or they were those few indecent ones who shamelessly did it (with themselves or with men) and that was sinful (and exciting) and dirty (and delicious). We secretly envied those who had done it but we could not admit to it.
To sum it up, Sex as I understood it then, was doing ‘something’ that would result in my penis entering the dark and mysterious (and somewhat dirty and dangerous) cave that was between a woman’s legs. And at that point I would have my eyes closed, forget everything that ever was, and in a whoosh I would empty my life-giving juice into a tight hole. In less than a minute later, I would be overcome with feelings of shame over slipping into that dirty place and guilt over having sinned, again, anger at my body with its dirty and ugly parts for desiring something I wasn’t supposed to want and disgust at myself for being so weak and without will-power, and of course afraid that I’d be found out for all of that.
That’s what sex was for me, first without a partner and later with.
I have come a long way since then. Sex now is dark, delicious, mysterious, exciting, and juicy. What it is not anymore is taboo, secret, shameful, or sinful. Sex with myself is a meditation that gives me knowledge, intuition, pleasure, and grounded presence. Sex with an other brings me to connection, knowing, and yes, pleasure. There are no dark and dirty holes anymore. There are only sacred bodies of people who deserve to be held, loved, and adored.
I can talk about sex now without feeling embarrassed. I can talk about it in the same way that I can talk about power, politics, church, or spirit.
As for what I wish Sex will become for me, I have lofty dreams. I hope Sex will be a place in my mind where I can connect with the spirit. I want to get to that loving and blissful place where my body is so known by my lover, and so loved by my own hands, that I can surrender to what there is, in that absolute moment. I want to feel so connected to the life force that flows through everything that there is that I’d be able to leave my body. Not because it is ugly, or dirty, or sinfully full of forbidden desires, but because it is a beautiful home that I can, and want to, come back to after a journey into the dark matters of the cosmos.
I want to lose myself so I can find myself. That’s what sex will be to me.
What is sex to you?