In Defense of Masturbation

New York Magazine has found an anti-masturbation subreddit and alleges the existence of a new trend: Fapstinence. Men are voluntarily forgoing sexual self-abuse, for a variety of legitimate reasons!

Some threads tout the perceived benefits of no-fapping ("found my first girlfriend"). Others recommend self-­improvement books or revel in a newfound sense of perspective ("I was able to notice birds chirping, which I haven't done in years"), or engage in what can best be described as penis monologues ("Today I was sitting on the toilet and I looked down and I saw my penis and I kinda just stared at it, then I asked him ‘What is your purpose penis?' To which he replied ‘I dunno lol'").

Good. Great. You do you. By not doing you, in this case. But whatever. Never mind that most people can achieve the same mindfulness by doing yoga or meditating or shutting their smartphones off for a minute or three, that's just a bridge too goddamn far for some people.

Color me skeptical, perhaps because I jerk it like a champ—as much now in my mid-thirties as when I was a teenager, operating under the notion that I'd invented the technique. But the purest evidence of a trend's fakeness is its lack of novelty. Conservative religious authorities have always attacked onanism, of course. Then there was the Seinfeld ensemble's "Contest," which goes inexplicably unmentioned in the NY Mag piece. And there are the Boy Scouts, whose manual for many years derided masturbation as a habit that "quickly destroys both health and spirits," and encouraged abstention, offering counsel that in retrospect chills the modern reader:

"It may seem difficult to overcome the temptation the first time, but when you have done so once it will be easier afterwards. If you still have trouble about it, do not make a secret of it, go to your scoutmaster and talk it over with him, and all will come right."

(Because nothing bad ever came of a confused young boy discussing his unit with a scoutmaster.)

There's a touch of that same old troubling Victorian "muscular Christianity"—the need for young men to safeguard their vitality and not go feeble—in today's anti-fapper:

The goals for all these men, regardless of their personal lives or relationship statuses, seemed to be similar: to return to a more charged, natural self. It's a throwback notion—virility as integral to manhood—but many of these anti-masturbators regard it as truth. "I feel like a man again" is a common refrain...They see masturbation as a failure of masculinity—not because it's shameful or forever associated with adolescence, but because, on a fundamental, even chemical level, it's draining their true potential.

Yessir, only men who prefer not to handle their dicks are real men. Never mind that every medical professional in the NY Mag story is upbeat on masturbation, which may help prevent heart problems and occasionally yields some delicious fiction. Fapstinence is hot because IT GETS YOU LAID:

Take the example of 19-year-old Redditor Ojdidit123. After 70 days without masturbating, he wrote, he went from being a virgin to meeting a woman on his flight, getting a "raging boner," and having sex with her in both the plane and an airport hotel. The confidence he got from that encounter, he said, not only helped him perform well at a job interview later, and secure a job at a hedge fund for the summer, but also enabled him to call a long-simmering crush and ask her out. "All that shit happened in the span of 48 hours," he posted. "It was pretty fucking crazy."

So we have arrived at the truth of the matter to the fapstronaut: The chief advantage of not rubbing your way through fantasies about fucking women all the time is that you'll become a spunk-filled hunk of hard alpha-man meat that fucks women all the time. Not that you'll gain a new-found respect for your sexual partners, or even for your own body, by looking outside it for a minute. Just that you can continue to fantasize with real vaginas instead of latex Jenna Jamesons.

If the aim of this extreme form of Jedi abstention training is to be sexist about teh ladiez and solipsistic about everything, well, then why NOT just save time and fuck your fist? Obsessing over one's masculinity is the most unmanly, masturbatory waste of energy I can imagine.

The thing about jacking off is, it's so personal it's mystical: There is only you, and the feeling that arises in you. No one can judge that relationship better than you—as opposed to abstainers, who like ardent ex-smokers can judge and browbeat you, Mr. (or Ms.) Self-Abuser, as only the zealous convert can.

For my part, jerking it makes me a calmer, happier, more compassionate person. I am confident in my body. I am exultant in sex and sensitive to anyone I'm lucky enough to share my sex with. And in compartmentalizing masturbation as separate from the finer pursuits of life, I feel more mindful of my surroundings, not less.

If these men really want to zap the fap to try to better engage with the world around them, that's cool. But it hardly seems like a recipe for success in life to cease the chicken-choking and double down on the navel-gazing.

[Image by Jim Cooke]