March 16, 2017

Masturbation as a Form of Activism.

For millennia, we’ve kept sex in the shadows, behind closed doors, secret, hidden, shrouded in shame.

We don’t talk about “it,” often even with the people we’re having it with.

Sex education focuses on the anatomy of reproduction and risks of disease and conception, disregarding relationships and pleasure almost entirely, and we are uncomfortable naming our sexual anatomy, relying instead on vague terms like private parts, nether regions, or down there.

Simultaneously, sex is everywhere. We use it to sell hamburgers and perfume. We gossip about sex scandals, and sex tapes. In the United States alone, the porn industry rakes in about 10 to 12 billion dollars a year. People (predominantly men) travel to foreign countries to engage in the growing business of sex tourism, which frequently preys on children (girls) and people (women) in extreme poverty. We have ongoing struggles with rape and consent on college campuses, and in the U.S., one in four girls, and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

We clearly have a problem.

And there’s others to tackle: Women’s rights. LGBTQ rights. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Poverty, violence, rape, police brutality, clean water, terrorism, Trump, education, renewable energy, pipelines, save the whales, save the rainforest, save the oceans…The list is stop-me-in-my-tracks endless, heartbreaking, overwhelming, and paralyzing.

More traditional expressions of activism, protest, and resistance bring awareness and attention to an issue, both of which are hugely important. Marches cultivate solidarity, community, and a sometimes real, sometimes false sense that actions are being taken to enact the changes we are marching for.

The problems we face are increasingly nuanced and complex, and everyone, from the woman next to us in the coffee shop to those in power, are increasingly adept at taking reality, subtracting the inconvenient truths, spinning it around, and delivering alternative facts that serve their agendas or preconceived assumptions and understandings.

In a world where facts are disregarded; where questionable, often fake news is swallowed whole by the President himself, and credible news is accused of being fake; where there is little agreement on what the most pressing concerns are; and where we seem to be more interested in ranting and raving on social media than in hearing the perspectives of our opponents, leading to exponentially increasing divisiveness, how to we get to the root of it all and enact real, lasting, meaningful change?


Yes. You read that right.

I’m not talking about a torrid, hidden, rushed affair.

Go slow. Follow your pleasure. Enjoy.

Explore your body. Get to know it. All the details of your anatomy. Look at, see, and feel yourself.

Try something new. If you always use your right hand, try your left. Stand up. Lie down. Dance, move, make sounds, play with your breath.

Find your pleasure. Feel your pleasure. Feed your pleasure. Grow your pleasure.

Uncover the shame and discomfort that resides in your body, and cultivate intimacy with yourself—your whole, unadulterated, unabashed, embodied self.

Our culture has a dire history of restriction and repression when it comes to masturbation.

Case in point: the word “masturbate” literally means “to disturb with your hand.”

Our cultural conditioning around touching ourselves is inherent in the word we use to speak of it.

The language that we use to speak of things matters. The history and origins of words resonates in our bodies and nervous systems as we speak them. All of their meanings—the ones we are conscious of, and those we aren’t—drip from our tongues, subtly and softly impacting the deeper message we are speaking to. Our words shape our lives, our experience of the world, and ourselves. Choose your words carefully.

Rather than using the word masturbate, and loading you up with all of the cultural and personal shame, repression, and ignorance inherent in it, let’s choose a different one. This is a revolutionary act in and of itself.


No one ever told you that self-pleasuring was wrong, shameful, or sinful. No one has removed clitorises or foreskins to prevent children from self-pleasuring. The origins of the words do not have negative connotations. Notice if your visceral response is different.

Self-pleasure as activism.

We are the inheritors of an active campaign, mostly unconscious (I hope), to get us out of our bodies, to prevent us from knowing our bodies, and to block us from connecting to ourselves, one another, our pleasure, and our power.

From the Inquisition and witch trials, to the separation of ourselves from the planet we live on, and the emphasis on consumer culture, busy-ness, instant gratification, and narrowly defined success, we have been both participating in and victims of a culture that is predicated on its members disconnection from themselves, starving for substance and connection, striving for ideals that don’t exist, and ignorant about their bodies, especially when it comes to sex and pleasure.

Knowing your body, your pleasure, and your sensations from the inside out leads to deep, true, felt embodiment that is anathema to the culture we live in. It is a radical, revolutionary act.

Connect with yourself here, fuel yourself with your pleasure. Independent of a partner or anyone else’s expectations and prescriptions for pleasure, who are you? What do you like? And what do you need?

Embodiment is powerful. If you are in your body, connected to yourself, your sensations, and the truth that moves through you from moment to moment, you are unlikely to go along with the status quo. You are more likely to ask questions, say no, speak up, stand up, and take action. If your actions are rooted in a deep connection to your body, and fueled by pleasure, they will likely be more sustainable and effective. The best way that I know of to establish this kind of radical embodiment is through a conscious, intentional, regular practice of self-pleasuring.

If you want to create a world where people and the planet are heard, respected, cared for, and loved, coming from anger, fear, and frustration will only serve to fortify the system that is in place. As Dr. King said, you cannot drive out hate with hate. If you want to enact radical change, cultivating and acting from your pleasure is the only place to start.

One of the leaders of thought in the work that I do has said, “Change how you masturbate, change your life.”

I want to take it one step further:

Change how you masturbate, change the world.


Author: Alyssa Morin

Image: Max Charping/Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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