Self-Love for the Homebound

by | March 26, 2020 | General | 11 comments

Lately, our TV and computer screens have been filled with warnings about COVID-19. “Stay indoors!” say all sane heads of state and medical experts. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, has openly said she intends to be an “earworm” and “broken record” on this subject.

I’m somewhat surprised that no one has suggested replacing dating life (including open relationships) with masturbation. Why not? Apparently self-stimulation boosts the immune system, and it obviously doesn’t result in unwanted pregnancies or further the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

No amount of social isolation can prevent people from masturbating. Even couples who are isolated together could probably use some alone-time to vary their routine.

In the aftermath of the “Me Too” movement, when some men are claiming to be confused about what women want (when will this question be retired?), masturbation could be considered the ultimate example of joyfully enthusiastic sex. No one (who isn’t a porn star) masturbates simply to keep a job or to avoid worse treatment by someone else.

If the standard way to approach another person for sex included the questions “Would you like to fool around?” and then “How would you like to fool around?” or “What do you like?” misunderstandings could be avoided.

The fact that women masturbate, combined with the fact that most women, when asked, will complain about unwanted sexual attention (harassment or abuse) can be taken to mean that sex, per se, is not the problem. Most people like sex in some form. Anyone who claims to be bewildered by women’s objections to being groped in an office should consider the differences between that kind of sexual attention and the kind that can be safely given to oneself in private space, the kind which doesn’t damage one’s job performance, employment status, reputation, or self-image.

So why is masturbation not being promoted as an almost miraculous cure for numerous ills?

Consider the departure of Dr. Joycelyn Elders from her position as Surgeon-General of the U.S. in 1994. She was the first African-American woman in that post, and she was fired for an increasingly sensible series of comments about sexual health that included support for reproductive choice (or against “fetishizing fetuses”), and an ultimate punch line that masturbation should be MENTIONED in public school sex-ed as a sexual option which is safer than sex with other people. (She could have added that this is especially true if you are a horny fifteen-year-old whose likeliest sex partner is another kid in your grade.) When this comment was greeted with a storm of protest, Elders clarified that she never advised teachers to tell students HOW to masturbate, only that it was a viable alternative to experimenting with someone else.

At that point, President Bill Clinton asked her to resign, probably because he thought she was alienating some of his voter-base. Oh, the irony.

When I googled the term “masturbation,” I found an encouraging series of on-line articles which assure the reader that it is a normal, healthy activity. Luckily, medical authorities are no longer warning the public that masturbation leads to a loss of “vital fluid” and can result in death. This belief reached its peak in the mid-Victorian Age, or about 1850, but it was included in medical literature about sex as late as the 1930s.

In the midst of all the articles that quietly accept masturbation as simply one sexual activity out of many, here is the official Catholic warning:

“Masturbation is the act or practice of the self-stimulation of one’s sexual organs. It is usually done with the goal of achieving sexual climax, sexual gratification, or the release of sexual tension. Although masturbation exists among both males and females, it is generally considered more common among men than women (Leitenberg et al. 1999, 87-98). Although the term mutual masturbation is used in reference to mutual acts of sexual stimulation, the following discussion considers masturbation only according to its more common meaning: namely, the self-stimulation of the sexual organs.

The Church’s Teaching

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that the sexual function is meant by God to be enjoyed in “the total meaning of mutual self-giving” (CCC, n. 2352) within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. The Church understands the purposes of sexuality to be the begetting of children and the mutual pleasure for building the couple’s unity. Therefore, any deliberate activation of the sexual function outside the proper state of marriage and the purposes noted is seriously inordinate; if done voluntarily and knowingly, it is sinful. Within marriage such self- or mutual-stimulation is moral only when in some way it prepares for or completes a natural act of sexual intercourse.”

Here is the link:

So there you have it: masturbation is considered sinful because all sexual desire is supposed to be channelled into sex within heterosexual marriage for the purpose of begetting children. Never mind whether you’ve had sixteen already. If you really can’t afford yet another pregnancy, you’re simply supposed to abstain from sex altogether.

I’ll leave you to consider whether this policy leads to personal happiness or social harmony in a world which is already overcrowded, and in which providing the necessities of life for even one child is impossible for some people.

A documentary on the subject with a catchy title (“Sticky”) was made in February 2016, and it explores the silencing of Dr. Elders to placate conservative voters. It also includes the endorsement of masturbation by several celebrities, which undoubtedly confirms the opinion of some concerned parents that the Hollywood film industry is a bad influence on impressionable children.

I’m tempted to quibble with the title of this film on grounds that in my experience, self-lubrication is actually more slimy (like the raw contents of an egg) than sticky like candy or sugary soft drinks. However, that’s a small quibble.

Here is one anonymous reviewer’s summary of Sticky: A (Self) Love Story, directed by Nicholas Tana:

“STICKY follows one filmmaker’s attempt to understand why masturbation is something most everyone does, but few like to admit to doing. Shamed as a child by fellow students through interviews with sexologists, authors, religious figures, porn stars, and entertainers, what’s so wrong with masturbation? The film takes a hard look at our touchy relationship with touching ourselves throughout history, and explores the negative ways in which masturbation is portrayed in the media. From the FBI study linking compulsive masturbation to serial killers, to the tragic death of a child who committed suicide after being caught masturbating, STICKY pulls no punches in exploring a subject that touches us all.”

Here is a link to the trailer:


(Sorry I lack the technical skills to embed a snippet here.)

I’m tempted to follow up with an excerpt on self-love from one of my own stories, but this post is probably long enough already. I hope I’ve provided some food for, um, thought.

I’ll just let you go do something even more stimulating than reading the ERWA blog.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica ( Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links:


  1. Rose

    Goodness knows, I’ve been practicing for this eventuality since I was 12. That’s 57 years, as of tomorrow. Needless to say, I’m an expert.

    I still recall, vividly, the day, a number of years ago, when I took delivery of my Hitachi wand. I tried it out, and the incredible sounds (at a previously unheard of volume and of quite a duration), which issued forth from the bedroom, attracted the attention of my husband, who was elsewhere in the house. He stuck his head in the bedroom and, in his usual understated tone, asked, “Did you say something?”

    Good thing I live out in the woods. I can’t imagine making that much noise in a close-quarters housing situation, without 9-1-1 false alarms being called in by the neighbours on a regular basis.

    Rose 😉

    • Larry Archer

      Rose – Now that it’s approved, I can comment. I agree with Lisabet it’s a hoot!

      My wife considers the Hitachi, the Mac truck of vibrators. Unless she’s in the right mood, it’s a little too intense for her. At least the newer vibrators are rechargeable, which means that I don’t have to visit the 7-Eleven in the middle of the night for batteries.

  2. Larry Archer

    Great post! My Mom told me I’d go blind if I didn’t stop. I always said that I’d quit when I needed glasses. But the funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to be getting worse.

  3. Lisabet sarai

    Let me echo Larry’s praise, Jean. The quote from the Catholic church is simply chilling. No wonder many people feel so guilty about masturbation.

    There’s another factor, though, a societal meme that’s independent of the religious aspect. Society and the media encourage the belief that masturbation is somehow a second-class compensation for not having a real world partner. Folks who can’t get laid … masturbate. Despite how ridiculous this is (for one thing, I suspect that the most sexually active people also jack/jill off more often than the average), lots of people feel embarrassed about masturbating because it might make them feel like “losers”.

    • Larry Archer

      Lisabet I’ve never heard that people jerk off because they can’t get lucky. Even when you’ve got someone, jerking off makes you a better lover in my opinion. A lot of guys have a short fuse and spanking the monkey will make you last longer in the saddle.

      Also, I read an article the other day that you should get off at least 21 times a month to lower your chances of getting prostate cancer. So if you get caught, you can just say you’re helping prevent cancer.

      Your “lovers” when you Jack/Jill off will never turn you down or have a headache.

      • Lisabet Sarai

        Larry, you live in a different world from most people!

        (Lucky you!)

        • Larry Archer

          Lisabet every day I realize that we are different from a lot of people. I think some of my systems have been skewed by our Lifestyle, but I’m not complaining. On my phone, the background is a picture of Foxy in a string bikini next to our Corvette. People are always surprised when they find that it’s my wife. I’m proud of her and like to show her off but straights often find it unusual. Maybe they don’t have naked pictures of their wife? LOL

  4. Jean Roberta

    Than ks for your comments, Rose, Larry, and Lisabet. This is my second attempt to post a comment. I just hope it works.

    • Larry Archer

      Also, keep in mind that May is National Masturbation Month, so be sure and practice so you’ll be ready.

  5. Jean Roberta

    Okay, that worked.

    Lisabet, you are so right that even the secular crowd tends to (officially) disapprove of masturbation because, presumably, it’s the last resort of a lonely loser. It’s like saying that some people eat lasagna because they can’t find any spaghetti, or vice versa. :~)

    Larry, a pic of a hot babe in a string bikini next to a Corvette sounds like an appealing book cover. Naked pics, however, don’t always remain private if they can be transmitted by computer. I’m so glad my days of being young and cute predated the Internet Age. The question of who gets to see what deserves a whole other post.

    • larry archer

      While Wifey loves to pose for the camera, putting her on an erotic cover might stretch it. Unfortunately, our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to publicity, so we have to keep a low key in our straight life.

      But your comment is dead-on about pictures not staying private. I shoot a lot of pictures of models and am constantly amazed at what people will post on Instagram and FaceBook.

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