Too Lazy to Masturbate: How Technology Has Screwed Us Up
(St Malo window - Photo by K.)
I’m scanning The Daily Beast when the title “The 30 Year Old Orgasm Virgin” catches my eye. Curious about other people's "erotic-neurotic" memoirs since writing my own, I kicked off my cyber-shoes and settled in for an intriguing read.
It turns out to be the tale of two orgasm virgins: A sort of "When Maura met Mara" story (but not in that fake woman-on-woman porn kind of way). Instead, Daily Beast blogger Maura Kelly uses the excuse of critiquing the book, Thanks for Coming: One Young Woman’s Quest for an Orgasm by Mara Altman, in order to confess her own late-in-life discovery of sexual pleasure.
As a book review, it’s a quickie: A mere 4 paragraphs are devoted to raking Mara-the-writer over the coals for such sins as waiting until page 240 (of 377) to finally purchase a vibrator and experience the big O, an event that Maura-the-critic cleverly calls “anti-climactic” by the time it arrives. She finishes off Altman thusly: “Were she a particularly funny or talented writer, she might have pulled off being a tease for so long, but I lost my readerly erection by about page four.” Ouch. Damn, baby, I thought I made you feel good in bed!
With her writerly competition thus beaten off, Maura proceeds to the real point of her blog post: Telling the rather odd tale of her own “awakening” in her late 20’s, one accompanied not by fantasies of George Clooney or some other stud-du-jour, but memories of her dead mother.
This revelation, which is actually rather moving in Kelly’s writerly hands, is nevertheless preceded by a description of men’s “Spank Banks” of masturbatory fantasies that sounds as if she read about them in an anthropology textbook rather than ever having had a sexual fantasy of her own. So far, her tone in reviewing Altman’s book has been both “more fucked up than thou” and “more healed than thou,” but as she goes on, her naïve-sounding statements begin to tilt her in one direction more than the other.
And who does Maura blame her own late-blooming orgasm on? Why, her Irish immigrant father and the guilt induced by her Catholic upbringing. In other words, the usual suspects. To paraphrase Maura herself, Pardon me if I lose my bloggerly erection reading that.
(What was it she said about Altman? Oh yes: “…her personal story isn’t especially compelling—she doesn’t delve in a meaningful way into the existing literature, scientific or otherwise, nor does she have very interesting insights.”)
But wait! It turns out that her doppelganger Mara actually has the opposite story: Her parents were Berkeley hippies who were so open about sex, she rebelled not by avoiding it (she lost her virginity as a high school senior) but by not seeking self-pleasure.
Now I haven’t read Altman’s allegedly boring book like Kelly has, but just at first blush, I find that story potentially more interesting, if disturbing: Clearly if you have children, you can fuck them up by what you encourage them to do as much as by what you forbid them to do. (Damn, that sounds like fun – why didn’t I ever get around to having kids?)
Me, I had an upbringing similar to Maura’s: Raised by a guilt-inducing Irish Catholic mother who was sex-phobic and then further screwing the pooch for myself as a teenager by becoming a Christian Fundamentalist and sucking up doctrine that considered even passionate kissing a sin outside of marriage. As a result, like Maura, I waited to have sex until I was well into my 20’s.
But I didn’t wait to have an orgasm.
And therein lies the rub: It’s not that these women stayed virgins, or even that they tried to make themselves come but couldn’t.
It’s that they didn’t even fucking try until their late 20’s!
And when they finally did…they went straight to the vibrator.
Not so strange, you say? Of course, millions of women happily use vibrators. What’s strange is that Maura makes it clear that no other option was even considered. In fact, she seems to believe that, unlike men, all women require some form of outside help in order to have an orgasm. To quote her blog posting:
Altman, a former Village Voice staff writer, had “always hoped some man would hit a bull’s eye and save me the trouble of exploring myself.” I know plenty of women who have felt the same way. Perhaps this expectation is another iteration of traditional gender roles; maybe it comes of the belief that men are more sexually experienced. But that’s not because they’re particularly sexually talented as a gender, but rather because the mechanics of male masturbation are so much simpler. Dudes don’t need electronic devices purchased at stores with names like Good Vibrations, books with names like Sex for One, or DVDs called Viva la Vulva.
Uh, dude? Neither do women. You have a number of other possibilities at your disposal. Two of them typed this blog posting.
Now trust me, I’ve spent my share of time explaining things like records you have to turn over to hear the rest of the music, or having to be in front of a TV at a set time in order to catch a particular show, or that people once lived quite happily without being in constant electronic contact with everyone they’ve ever met in their lives.
I’m aware that times have changed since I was a young woman, and people who are significantly younger than me have come to depend on a lot of devices that make their lives easier, to the point that they think of them not only as necessities but as eternal truths that have always existed.
But outsourcing your own orgasm?
Thinking the only way a woman can get off is to turn on...a battery-powered device?
Never ONCE in your life having reached your delicate little texting fingers down between your legs and, well, typed out a few instant messages to yourself?
I can’t imagine it.
I know manual labor is out of style, but is this generation literally that fucking lazy?
Bartender, a round of Betty Dodsons for the house, stat!
I had arguably the same sex-phobic childhood that Kelly did, and back in an era (the 1960’s) when there were no alternative sources of sexual information like the internet, explicit TV shows or Judy Blume books. Hell, we barely had sex ed, and it certainly didn’t cover the topic of masturbation. And it was not something we girls talked about with our friends, as Kelly and Altman both say they did. We were out there alone like Edison trying to invent the light bulb.
Yet despite all this, I was only eleven years old when I had my first orgasm. And it didn’t take a vibrator. Just a bike. There followed all kinds of explorations and achievements, ones that weren’t recognized by badges from my Girl Scout troop, but certainly helped me be
“Considerate and caring,
Courageous and strong, and
Responsible for what I say and do”
…just as I promised every time I raised my three-fingers in the Girl Scout oath. In fact, I was such a responsible girl that I took it upon myself to find out all the ways I could make myself have an orgasm. I also didn’t think that our Girl Scout motto, “Be Prepared” meant to stock up on Duracells for a dildo, but to be aware of any chance I had to give myself some brownie points.
But it seems girls aren't taught to be self-sufficient or resourceful any more. Not to mention they must not feel even a fraction of the sexual desire I felt in my teens and twenties. If I hadn't taken matters into my own hands as an adolescent, I would have proved that spontaneous human combustion is no myth.
Honestly, what I felt at the end of Kelly’s blog was sad. Damned sad. So I say to her, Altman and all the young women like them:
Come on, girls. Give it a good, old-fashioned try. You might be surprised to find out what a really great lover you can be.