We may have missed Masturbation Month in May, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be celebrating the month all about self-love. Did you know that masturbation has a history? Well, everything has a history, including the need to touch oneself.
One of my favorite sex toy companies, LELO explored the history of masturbation and found out some pretty weird facts. From the earliest guides on how to masturbate to critics telling you that you shouldn’t, check out these strange tidbits about masturbation:
1. The earliest records of masturbation came from Sumer. According to Sumerian legend, the Tigris River was created when the god Enki masturbated and his ejaculate filled the river bed. The culture encouraged masturbation either solo or with a partner to enhance potency. While the jury’s still out on that one, science has linked prostate massage to men’s health.
2. While many look to the Kama Sutra (roughly 400 BC) as the ultimate guide to acrobatic sex positions, the text also offers masturbation instructions: “Churn your instrument with a lion’s pounce: sit with legs stretched out at right angles to one another, propping yourself up with two hands planted on the ground between in them, and it between your arms.”
3. The Judeo-Christian, shameful view of masturbation is thought to come from the story of Onan, who, after marrying his widowed sister in law (as per tradition) he ‘wasted his seed on the ground’ rather than impregnate her. ‘Onanism’ later became a popular term for masturbation.
4. In several groups within the African Congo Basin, there is no word for masturbation, and they are unfamiliar with the concept once explained.
5. From the Shakespearean play ‘A Winter’s Tale,’ (est. 1610) a joke is made from a servant’s line deeming a travelling minstrel’s songs to be ‘without bawdry’ because he doesn’t understand the word ‘dildo.’The line reads: “He hath songs for man or woman, of all sizes; no milliner can so fit his customers with gloves: he has the prettiest love-songs for maids; so without bawdry, which is strange; with such delicate burthens of dildos and fadings.”
6. The New Haven law of 1656 meant that in Connecticut, those found guilty of masturbating could be given the death penalty. Of course, that’s not the only strange sex law to make it onto the books in the U.S.
7. While Victorian doctors were famously helping women orgasm to cure hysteria (and revolutionizing sex toy tech when their hands got tired) they were also advising all sorts of methods to keep young people and men from masturbating. These practices involved tying their hands to bedposts, putting children in pajamas that only opened in the back, to creating very uncomfortable-looking devices. It was thought that masturbation would lead to a weakness of character and venereal diseases.
8. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg) is quoted as saying “If illicit commerce of the sexes is a heinous sin, self-pollution is a crime doubly abominable.” He ran a sanitarium in the late 1800s where he enforced a strict vegetarian diet, believing meats and spices to excite the libido, and in fact, that is how corn flakes came to be invented.
9. What is commonly believed to be the oldest surviving pornographic film is El Sartorio. Thought to be made in Argentina, circa 1907, the film features 3 women bathing in a river, who have sex with each other, and then with the devil. The movie also may feature one of the first uses of an extreme-close up shot of genitals.
10. In 1991, one of the most famous cases of a well-known celebrity being caught masturbating in public involved Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman. As recently as 2012, Fred Willard was also arrested for a ‘lewd act’ in an adult movie theater. We can only wonder what everyone else in the theater was doing.