Welcome to the age of self-love

It's the perfect cause for our narcissistic times

28 June 2014

9:00 AM

28 June 2014

9:00 AM

Remember when masturbation was something everybody did but no one talked about? It was not most people’s idea of a conversation starter. Certainly nobody boasted about being a self-abuser. It was seen as a sorry substitute for sex, a sad stand-in for intimacy.

Not any more. Masturbation has been reinvented as ‘self-love’, a healthy and positive form of self-exploration. Where once schoolboys were told it was a sin, now they’re told it is essential to good health. An NHS leaflet distributed in schools advised teens to masturbate at least twice a week, because ‘an orgasm a day’ is good for cardiovascular health. The BBC is getting in on the act, too: its teen advice site insists masturbation is ‘good for you as it helps relieve stress’ and ‘can help you sleep, and it may even help your genitals keep in top working order. It also allows you to explore what you enjoy.’ And we wonder why so many teenage boys become addicted to internet porn.

Last month was International Masturbation Month, the brainchild of Good Vibrations, a purveyor of sex toys for singletons. Its aim? To spread the message that ‘self-satisfaction is a healthy, accessible form of pleasure’. ‘It’s Masturbation Month! Give yourself a hand!’ say the organisers. According to the Good Vibrations brigade, masturbation is just as good as having sex with someone else, and in some ways better. It is ‘the safest form of sex a person can have’. Your hand is unlikely to give you an STD or break your heart, so it’s preferable to intercourse with another living, breathing, unpredictable human being.


As part of International Masturbation Month, launched in 1995, there have been ‘masturbate-a-thons’ across the western world. Individuals are sponsored to get to it, alone or in groups, to raise money for charity and to raise awareness about sexual health. The aim is to ‘come for good causes’. Jesus wept. Britain’s first such event took place in Clerkenwell in 2006, bringing together a bunch of pervs — sorry, awareness-raisers — who were sponsored for every minute they could pleasure themselves without… well, you know. It was supported by Marie Stopes International, Britain’s leading abortion provider, which said the event was about ‘dispelling the shame and taboos that persist around this most commonplace, natural and safe form of sexual activity’.

If you’re too bashful to be a charity onanist, you can always sneak on to Amazon and buy any number of books dedicated to celebrating the subject. Recent titles include: The Joy of Self-Pleasuring: Why Feel Guilty About Feeling Good?; Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving; Masturbation as a Means of Achieving Sexual Health; and The Big Book of Masturbation: From Angst to Zeal.

All these tomes are devoted to stripping away the awkwardness and redefining the act as a legit form of sex, even an act of love. It speaks to the narcissism of our times that it’s considered good to have a sexual relationship with oneself. Narcissus fell in love with his reflection; today young people are urged to fall for their own genitals.

The key conceit of today’s celebrators of masturbation is that they are smashing taboos. They fancy themselves as free-spirited and open-minded, sticking one in the eye of sad, buttoned-up prigs. This gets things completely the wrong way round. The evangelists are really enemies of free love; they are driven, deep down, by a fear of other people and a desire to dodge intimacy.

Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One, openly celebrates it as preferable to the sometimes scary passion that accompanies sex for two. The problem with romantic passion, she says, is that ‘reality comes crashing in, [and] the pain and the hurt and the suffering and the breakdown follow’. The sanctification of self-abuse is in keeping with today’s general fear and distrust of Other People, who will leave us hurt and damaged. The moral rehabilitation of masturbation is fuelled by anomie, an urge to withdraw from the world, hardly a libertine impulse.

It was silly to tell children that masturbation was evil and would make them blind or loopy. But it’s sillier — and dangerous — to tell youngsters that it is preferable to sex with others because it’s risk-free and passionless. We should keep the taboo that says that it really is a bit sad. Hey kid, leave your bits alone — explore someone else’s.

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Show comments
  • JoeDM

    Football referees all over the world will rejoice at this news !!!

  • Shorne

    As somebody said ‘Well at least you don’t have to look your best.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      And it does so side-step that plaintive, “When will see you again?”
      Not in this life, darlin’.

  • hdb

    Sponsored wankathons? If I had my wanking sponsored as a teenager I would have certainly raised more than Stephen Sutton’s measly three million!

  • Inconspicuous

    All the “pro-wank” propaganda that is circulated now is really very dangerous. “There’s nothing wrong with it”, “It’s good for you!”, ” It makes you better at sex”. I was stuffed with this nonsense by our bonkers leftie media from an early age, with the result that from the age of seven I spent years doing almost nothing but self-abusing. Now I’m an elder teenager, and I’ve still never had any relationship with, or even a peck on the cheek from, a girl, as I was alone in my room all that time.

    A couple of months ago I stopped this habit, and, physically, mentally, and in every other observable way, I am fitter, sharper and stronger as a result. Kick the damn thing! Conventional wisdom was always that it was bad for one. I feel so much better from not doing it that I think there may really be something in this.

    I appreciate female company more now, I don’t objectify women as much, and I’m living a better life. And all from putting my willy down and deleting my porn.

    • rtj1211

      The usual pre-adolescent ‘what worked for me must work for everyone else’ nonsense.

      I’m happy for you that you found a route to happiness.

      Don’t project your own solution as the only one for others, though.

      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

        He isn’t. Next!

    • The Blue Baron

      “Kick the damn thing!”

      In most cases that kind of sexual horseplay requires a second party. Most people aren’t flexible enough to achieve the desired affect themselves.

      Plenty of people are able to enjoy porn without the need to stay in their room all the time or treat women like objects.

      • cartimandua

        But using online materials can be addictive. Its not the same as autoeroticism when there is not yet a partner.

        • Gwangi

          Such an oppressive and puritanical concept.
          P-rn is great – and has only been called p-orn-ography for 200 years, since the upper classes wanted to stop the lower orders from accessing the stuff!
          All dictatorships want to ban p-orn – Commies, Chinese, the lot. And femi-nazis of course…

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

            Yuck. You’re not the hairy junk-man with blinds pulled down and miscellaneous furniture lying in his backyard, opposite the house I used to rent a while back, are you?

          • Gwangi

            Oh here you are again – throwing insults at any male who nails the concept and outargues the femiloons.

            You’re not that mad woman who used to rent a slum opposite the nice big home I own, are you? Yep, I think you are – or maybe you’re a clone of her.

            Next you’ll be insulting me by questioning the size of my manhood – feminuts usually do that, then complain when anyone ever mentions their lady lumps or fan-nees or how they look or the lives they lead.

            YUCK to you, weirdo American! Try chucking away the Xanax with the feminist hate manuals, and read some decent literature for a change. Start with Darwin perhaps and learn some science.

            There is nothing at all wrong with the visual stimuli males use to enjoy their bodies – and that’s the point really, innit? You mad women resent the fact that men really do not need you to have fun, and actually probably have a great deal more fun with p-rn than the average female partner. Your barbaric instincts like your own emotional p-rn – Jane Austen, emo-romance, feminist tomes: all filthily satisfying your base instincts, love.

            ‘My’ worst instincts are not ‘mine’, silly – just the facts of Nature and Life. Get over it and deal with it, Then Move On – preferably to somewhere in South America in the middle of a disease-ridden jungle where you can enjoy the gender equality of Nature in the raw (and last about 5 minuites before you drown in a puddle of your own self-obsessed femi-tears).

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

            Well, to begin with I’m not a ‘weirdo American’, but how you see me is your business, so I’ll leave you to it. As for how men enjoy themselves: I draw the line at exploitation. Now, you may say there isn’t any, but I disagree, since people that work in p*rn — esp. women but men as well — are doing something that most people wouldn’t do if they had better opportunities, because it’s degrading. It’s prostituting yourself by way of video. I think using prostitutes is like making elephants dance in the circus: it’s just unkind.

            Also, I don’t think that Peeping Tomism is any way admirable. I want to ‘admire’ myself in this life, I want to be the best human that I can be. To be a Peeping Tom is to slum it. Like the junkman opposite my rented house.

      • post_x_it

        There was me thinking I was unusual in lacking said flexibility.
        T’internet has much evidence to that effect.

    • cartimandua

      A po*n addiction is different from normal autoeroticism.

    • Gwangi

      Well, thank you fake teenager. You’re probably some sad obese middle-aged feminist loon living in Middleborough of course…

      And bizarrely you do not seem to realise that all men in relationships still do what is utterly natural and fun!

    • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

      You’re clearly not a teenager, 7 is far FAR too young to be developed enough to do what you speak of…… it would appear your memory is going.

    • MC73

      Has your eyesight recovered? Do you still need to shave your palms?

    • Cyril Sneer

      Ok Mr 1 comment profile…..

      If you’re not able to have a w nk and live normally then the problem is with you.

    • Badger45

      ” The Lefties made me a wanker ” oh really ? I think you managed that all by yourself. Your initials aren’t IDS by any chance ?

    • Terence ‘Clench’ McPiehole

      Utter bollocks.

  • Tahitiholiday

    fear and distrust of Other People, who will leave us hurt and damaged
    You deny it? You’re over 18, I trust?

  • The Blue Baron

    I see Britain’s puritans are back on the march.

    We all do it so let’s not be sanctimonious hypocrites about it. Put that Catholic guilt-complex away Brendan!

    • albertcooper

      So called “Catholic Guilt” is because of the sin ,therefore penitential.I carry guilt for any sins I commit !

      • The Blue Baron

        I’d define it as worrying about petty irrelevancies or basic human desires because of a deep-wired set of religious prejudices.

        • albertcooper

          I dont find sin to be irrelevant , you have a view but its not mine

          • The Blue Baron

            It’s not irrelevant, it’s just a human construct designed to place “God” rather than sentient beings at the centre of our moral understanding of the universe.

          • albertcooper

            As I pointed out thats your opinion,but not mine! so please state “in my opinion” rather than be pompous !

          • The Blue Baron

            I don’t think it’s necessary to caveat every statement in life with a redundant proviso like “in my opinion”. It’s self-evident that it’s my opinion, I’m the one who’s saying it.

          • albertcooper

            And long may you have your opinion !

          • Warwick


      • rtj1211

        Perhaps you’d like to tell that to Tony Blair and the Pope??

        Forgiving sins isn’t good enough if your Messiah complex caused you to see 100,000+ dead as ‘acceptable collateral damage’, you know.

        Punishment is more appropriate.

        The church has never had the balls to punish the rich and powerful, you know. It’s just a vehicle to keep the masses in their place……

        • albertcooper

          Will you throw tthat stone ? The Pope Tony Blair and everyone on this earth are sinners.And there is punishment for sins committed! To be truly sorry and to make a firm purpose of amendment,goes a long way,but in the end no one gets away with it !

          • global city

            People who peddle that man made dogma will surely end up in Hell

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

      We all poop, too, but I hardly want a picture of me — or you — doing it to hang on my wall. Why are moderns so stupid about this?

      • The Blue Baron

        1. Nobody is forcing you to.
        2. If you think pooing is similar to sex then you’re not doing it correctly.

        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

          That reply is far too po-faced.

  • rtj1211

    No doubt ‘humping and dumping’ is better for you, the individual, but maybe it is harmful to the ‘humped and dumped’??

    All very complex when you start this ‘sex good, masturbation bad’ line, isn’t it??

    Everyone must have loving, consensual, sex solely within monogamous, long-term relationships deified by the church.

    Except the majority of young people who are not ready for that nirvana in any way whatever.

  • Hamburger

    In which Woody Allen film did he describe it a sex with someone you love? It was quite funny then.

  • logdon
    • john p reid

      Judging by this Quagmire is left handed

      • logdon

        Unless he was pretending it was someone else?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Aren’t we looking at a supply and demand imbalance?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Billions of galaxies, trillions of stars, literally uncountable number of planets: It really does beggar belief that this all exists so that on one part of an invisible dot of a planet, some over-dressed little ponce can tell anyone that will listen, jerking off is a mortal sin.

    • GraveDave

      You still wouldnt do it in a telephone box would you.

      • logdon

        Not if you’ve got an iPhone and the internet.

    • global city

      The Milky Way is cosmic spunk!

  • gubblerchechenova
  • cartimandua

    What happens if they don’t Brendan is they expect girls to put out. That seems to be your preferred option that boys think they “have to” bully girls into “doing it for them”.
    That’s how you raise selfish boys and girls with low self esteem.
    We should teach them Pinks great song “its just you and your hand tonight”.

    • tubamirum

      Or one against five…..

      • Gwangi

        Yep, and girls and boys are very different physically with utterly different reproductive instincts and roles – neither is worse than the other too.

        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

          Any room in your analysis for the idea of a ‘soul’? Men and women both have souls, you know. Sometimes they even get a look-in with regard to secks.

          ‘Some men can father hundreds’: only by being tyrants, creeps, and ineffable barbarians. I’d rather be a salamander, thanks.

          • Gwangi

            I thought the sole was a fish… Personally, I prefer sild though. Do men and women have silds too?

            So a man with many children is a creep and a woman with many children is a role model. How very quaint…
            My point is men produce millions of spermatozoa every day of their lives; women do not and have a body clock – and only 50 health eggs in a lifetime (most that baby girls are born with go off or get flushed to heaven…bless…)

            My point is to stop pretending males and females are the same, have the same brains, instincts, bodies or reproductive needs and wants. THAT is why males do it and like p-orn – and women do not, because they really cannot turn off their emotional mummy brain, and they do not produce millions of eggs every day, or have the instinct to impregnate healthy young women, as males do. Women instead have the instinct to find a good enough well-off man who will give good genes to their offspring and protect and provide for them.

            We’re all just cavemen, innit? You might not like the facts of Nature – but that is what they are.

            Moreover, nothing wrong with salamanders. Just ask Ken al-Livingstone… You are being very insulting to another species y’know. I recommend diversity training…

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

            Yes, I didn’t need the biology lecture, thanks all the same.

            And I know lots of men I’m happy to describe as something other than ‘cavemen’.

          • Gwangi

            ‘A humiliating state of neediness?’
            Oh my, sister superior! I think you’re describing rumpy-pumpy there!
            Yes, women do get terribly needy, don’t they? Especially when their eggs are shrivelling and the body clock is screaming BABY at them as they get into their 30s.
            Ironic really: apparently males self-pleasuring is all wrong; but feminists (and thus our female-run education system) is constantly telling girls how they should enjoy their bodies. Ho hum… Feminists are utter hypocrites. So what’s new?

          • Fergus Pickering

            I don’t think their eggs shrivel. Would that they did in many cases.

        • huh?

          “But hey, anything that excludes women must be banned eh? Pathetic.” wait wait wait I’m confused – are you implying that masturbation is something only men do? what?

    • Gwangi

      Yes, but girls in most European countries manage to say NO, so why can’t British girls? Maybe they’re all too drunk to notice eh? It is NOT boys’ fault that girls are more up for it than ever before!
      I see plenty of selfish girls around and boys with low self-esteem too. But hey, that doesn’t tally with your gynecentric victimhood agenda eh?

  • Mike Barnes

    I agree it’s not a replacement for sex and relationships, however improving the image of masturbation is a good thing for those people missing out on sex.

    They don’t need to beat themselves up, feel bad or turn into another Elliot Rodger.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

      I agree it’s not a replacement for sex and relationships

      For a lot of people, it has to be: better than to break up a family, destroy a marriage (yours or someone else’s or both), or get entangled in relationships that will only end in tears and the plaintive cry of ‘what was I thinking?’. Your linking of ‘sex and relationships’ is not anyway the full story, since many have sex without the relationship, or relationships without the sex. Being human is such a complicated business — and the older one is, the more complicated it gets, in my experience.

  • Roberta Crichton

    Although some believe that scientific knowledge growth shrinks ignorance, most people realize that ignorance grows faster than knowledge.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

    Re the article’s photo: Another youngster, another nut-like navel…. What are the doctors doing and why? Where did the belly holes go?

  • MC73

    A friend of mine once recommended a quick one off the wrist as the ideal in-work stress reliever and he was right. 10 minutes in the disabled loo and you sail through difficult meetings.

    • Cyril Sneer

      My previous work colleagues used to call it a PW…. Power W nk.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

      10 minutes?! Did this involve a power poo as well?

  • john lyttle

    Some people have too much time on their hands. Among other things.

  • dansus

    Thought regular spasms was good for the prostate?

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Tahitiholiday

      Not if you’re a woman.

  • Claire Farrell

    “self abuse”, seriously?

  • Gentleman Jim Crow

    People seriously think it is necessary to promote masturbation to teenage boys? Talk about preaching to the choir.

  • Tony

    Dangerous? Sillier than “masturbation is evil”? When I had “the talk” my mother said better masturbate than get someone pregnant or acquire an STD. That still sounds like pretty good advice for young people. There is plenty of room for shame in relationships, along with the likelihood of many other forms of emotional pain. Why on earth should anyone spend any time whatsoever of our brief lives being ashamed of masturbating?

    • http://www.CaerphillyPreserves.co.uk/ No Good Boyo

      But don’t you find it all a bit squalid? Do children really need advice from the NHS on how to masturbate? Surely, there must be more productive, and less seedy topics for the NHS to devote its resources to?

  • Gwangi

    All ‘personal’ education in schools encourages girls especially to enjoy their bodies and to claim their right to be as promiscuous and drunk and irresponsible as the worst of men. I think it’s called hypocrisy, innit?

  • Mukkinese

    More silly column-filler from the arch contrarian O’Neill, it seems he has made a career from such “self abuse”.

    Why not address actual problems instead of inventing silly problems to “deal with”?

    Is it that this is just a bit titillating and not threatening, so bound to be snapped up by an editor desperate to fill space?

    God forbid we should have serious discussions, of serious issues when we can all snigger at this kind of rubbish…

  • Sanctimony

    We don’t need an article of this length and verbosity to realise that Brendan O’Neill is a complete wanker !

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Fenton!

      That’s like saying that we don’t need a mountain of Everest’s height and monstrosity to realise that tectonic plates are complete dullards. Two people get your meaning. I confess that I don’t.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Wank for Britain.It is now an Olympic sport. How far can you throw it? Go on. You’re not trying.

  • http://www.scottishsecularsociety.com Garry Otton

    LIke Brendan O’Neill fakes atheism, he takes his hunger for self-publicism to the dark corners of what he seems to think is self-abuse. The world has moved on and left O’Neill behind.