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Cory Silverberg

Onanistic Inquiries

By May 13, 2013

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A few weeks ago an issue of New York Magazine featured a story about men who were quitting masturbation and finding solidarity and guidance on a Reddit forum called "NoFap". The piece was a mess of misinformation and confusion. It referenced to faddish research ("Your Brain on Porn") and conflated sexuality, desire, gender identity, and gender roles. All of this made it a pretty accurate reflection of many mens understanding of their own sexuality, and a good reminder of why things rarely get better for cisgender men.

As long as it doesn't involve coercion, everyone should get to choose how they want to be sexual, including whether or not they want to masturbate. But the idea that not masturbating makes you a better man is a sad, old chestnut that only looks new because of the technological platform and shiny stock rubber chicken images that accompany our current public discussion of it.

We're half way through National Masturbation Month and it seemed like a good time to review some of the most common questions I get asked on the site about masturbation, which perhaps tellingly almost always come from men.

Questions About Masturbation

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May 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm
(1) Adam says:

I’m a member of /r/noFap. We never prescribed to anyone that they should not masturbate. We merely say that WE found that we ENJOY our lives more after we give give up masturbation.

You make ZERO reference to the porn + masturbation dilemma. Men today often masturbate through porn usage, a wildly different animal than solely

Finally, The phrase in your sentence :

” conflated sexuality, desire, gender identity, and gender roles” sounds overly confusing. How does the relation between Sexuality and gender roles play into whether I want to masturbate or not?

But to summarise, if we say masturbation is OK, then do we also agree that lack of masturbation is OK too?

May 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm
(2) Lud Allen says:

Adam the point isn’t that masturbation is okay or not okay. But in the INTRODUCTION to nofap it says “please view a semi-scientific presentation AND also says “if viewing porn or masturbating has become an addictive problem you will find a supportive community here”

Semi scientific? – This doesn’t fill me with confidence! Semi science has been used over the years to fuel racism, homophobia, mysoginy and now it seems – masturbationphobia.

Also if a person has an addiction – go seek support for the addiction from addiction specialists. – not to mention that porn addiction itself is a contested field.

What I see looking through the forum is lots and lots of misinformation about masturbation/orgasm. No information on the scientifically proven health benefits of orgasm/masturbation and an unstated belief that a man shouldn’t have to masturbate. No information about the sexual response cycle and how the sexual body works and very gendered misinformation about what it is to be a man. I also see many people that could benefit from some direct counselling about issues that have nothing to do with masturbation.

This looks like a forum that was started as a bit of fun but is now fueling the damaging belief that men need to ‘stay strong’ and be the ‘master of my domain’ – all phrases that you will see thoughout the discussions

May 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm
(3) Adam says:

Look, it’s just a personal choice. But many of us have spent YEARS hooked into masturbation + porn. We are not all the same, some of us just want to masturbate once every month, while some want to quit for good, maybe because we have partners we want to satisfy.

And that has been a simple reason to quit masturbation, which is – to have better sex with our partners. Many of the members of noFap talk about great sex after periods of prolonged abstention from masturbation, but especially masturbation+porn.

And that seems reasonable. Now, you might quote science studies about masturbation’s goodness and such… however, these are not infallible studies, and often suffer from bias.

It is understandable that academia wants us to feel good about masturbating, given the historical feud between academia/science and religion.

Masturbation was perhaps unfairly lambasted by religions… however it doesn’t mean we can’t revisit from a different angle//

May 14, 2013 at 1:27 am
(4) Ralph Brew says:

So how do you pronounces cisgender?

Kissgender or sissgender? Could get interesting.

May 14, 2013 at 9:46 am
(5) Cory says:

Hi Adam,
I think Lud explains many of my concerns with how this topic is presented both in the article and on a few sites I have seen.

But to be clear, I’m very much in favor of anyone thinking about what works for them and then making changes in their life based on that. I don’t think the choice to masturbate is any better than the choice not too. My concern is that based on my experience as a sex educator, speaking with thousands of people about their sex lives, most people are overwhelmed and not clear on why they make the sexual decisions they make.

When offers of help are couched in gender ideals (what it is to be a man, what it is to be a woman) it requires people to give up so much in order to receive whatever help is offered.

I find that worrisome. But critiquing an approach to a problem is very different than saying that the individuals who take this approach are wrong, or shouldn’t do it. I would never suggest that and I couldn’t agree with your final point more: we should always consider our experiences from many angles.

I hope that clarifies my position a bit. If you have any other questions or concerns you can always email me directly at sexuality@aboutguide.com.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cory

May 15, 2013 at 8:59 am
(6) Vallin says:

Thank you Cory for calling it. That was such a stupid article. And I LOVE your term “faddish research”. I’m a bookseller (B&N) so unfortunately that’s the bulk “kindling” of what I see.

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