In my usual drunken wanderings through links my friends post, I was alerted to this article on thefrisky.com about a guy considering buying a Fleshlight. (Second link visibly NSFW.) Now, I’ll be clear, I don’t actually know the article’s author, John DeVore; I’m not familiar with his work or his personal life or what dreams sing within his heart. Based just on that one article, though, I think he’s an embarrassment.
It is downright ridiculous that in this day and age, there is still so much tired-ass nonsense about jerkin’ one’s gherkin. Feminists have done a hell of a job reframing women’s sex toys as a fun, even empowering way to enjoy one’s own body and sexuality. Male sex toys, however, are still culturally stigmatized as the province of creepy losers, as seen in the linked article. If you see any reference in most culture to a man having any form of masturbation aid, from an apple pie to a RealDoll (also NSFW), then you know that guy’s a punchline. It’s universally understood to be shorthand for “loser”.
And so far I’m just talking about toys one inserts one’s willy into. If you happen to enjoy any form of anal stimulation, well, you’re just gay. (Gratuitous link to my favorite anal-stimulation-turns-dudes-gay theory.) Gentlemen, your prostate is purely decorative.
All this despite the fact that it’s also universally acknowledged that men enjoy masturbating. Shit, what’s not to enjoy? (Yes, there remain some pockets of the culture where it’s heavily stigmatized, but I don’t know anything about that experience, so I’ll leave it to others.) As with all forms of male gender-policing, though, there’s this impossibly narrow target you have to hit: you’re weird if you don’t jerk off, but if you get too into it, if you start really enjoying yourself and having a good time… that’s even weirder. I applaud JackinWorld for fighting this asinine stigma, and am not too proud to admit I picked up a couple good tricks from their site.
Whence cometh this bizarre notion? In trying to unpack the symbolism of how the stigma lives in my own brain, I notice two different strains of bullshit. The first, of course, is that masturbation must always be a substitute for sex. A Real Man can get all the women he wants, of course, but those of us who fall short of imaginary standard, the remaining 100% of the male population, must sometimes pummel the bishop until the next liaison comes along. This notion is absurd, of course. As someone once said, “A wank is a poor substitute when what you really want is a fuck, but when all you want is a wank, it’s perfect.” (Anyone who can track down that quote or its author will have my gratitude.) Masturbation and sex both provide sexual enjoyment, but they’re not the same, and they have their own levels of fun.
The second kind of nonsense, I think, is the same old routine about vulnerability. If a guy is really, really into masturbating, having a great time and getting really into it, he’s vulnerable. He looks silly. He’s as ripe for mockery as that poor guy who didn’t understand that “dance like no one’s watching” is a trap. And mockery is one of the primary enforcement mechanisms for gender-policing.
So yeah, that poor guy over at thefrisky.com. He’d probably enjoy that Fleshlight, but he’s absorbed the message that’s been beaten into him his whole life. And now he’s amplifying that message, broadcasting it out to anyone who might not have gotten it. “I almost enjoyed myself, but man… that’d just be too embarrassing, am I right, guys?”