Storytellers of a new generation
Masturbation In Popular Culture - From Perversion To Personal Empowerment

Masturbation In Popular Culture - From Perversion To Personal Empowerment

Society's now open secret can build confidence or destroy careers.

You would think guys took a hint after the whole Weinstein fiasco, that also spawned the #metoo movement. But apparently we have just begun. Louis CK, one of the greatest comedians of this generation, is next in line for perpetrating sexual violence at the work place. Women are coming forward with stories of Louis’ multiple requests to masturbate in front of them. Some, unable to react to the absurdity of the moment, froze and let him proceed. This disgusting behaviour is now costing him his career, built meticulously over decades.

As appalled as I am with these reports, I couldn’t help thinking about the role that masturbation has played in forming society’s opinion on sexuality. And how under attack this seemingly plain act of self-pleasure has been.

There was a time when I firmly believed that the pimples on my face were directly proportionate to the number of times I have masturbated. Growing out of adolescence, as my tally of masturbation kept increasing and my face started getting clearer, I also understood as clearly, that this was a myth. That all these theories I was coming across during lunch breaks in high school and junior college were not the reality, just like a lot of ghost and spirit stories that were exchanged in the same conversations.

The supposed ills of masturbation did not restrict themselves to my face in these whispered discussions. Unrestrained body hair, weakening eyesight, stuttering and a crooked walk were all symptoms of someone who had been getting busy in the bathroom with the tap on. We had “physical evidence” to who masturbated the most because stunted height was also one of the outcomes apparently. I remember some of the boys comparing the size of their forearms to estimate how often they fantasised about their favourite actress. Nevertheless, these myths were busted soon after. Science told us that there was no relation whatsoever between any of our physical characteristics and how often or in what angle your hand slips inside your pyjamas. The motivation for seeking this knowledge, more than being a scientific curiosity, was to know the extent of our probable sufferings - because this wasn’t going to stop! Masturbation comes so naturally (no pun intended) that it felt uncomfortable to think that nature would provide us an elegant machinery and punish us for using it.

Louis CKLouis CK, perversion not self. Image source:

Back then, however, this unfortunately became a fear inducing act. Rather than being pleasurable, which is its whole purpose, masturbation became a medium for guilt and self-disgust. Much of this can be blamed on religious dogma. Many religions openly preach against masturbation, going as far as calling it homosexuality. The logic (if we can call it that) is that since masturbation involves a man pleasuring himself and orgasming on his own, that is equivalent to him having sex with himself. And since he is a man and the one he is pleasuring is also a man (because he effected an orgasm to a penis, instead of a vagina), that is a case of homosexuality. On that line of reasoning, we might as well call feeding and clothing ourselves an act of social service.  

Apart from being proclaimed a sin by religious authorities, the shame about masturbation is also cultivated culturally. In traditional cultures that have a long history to uphold, like India, sex (and the milieu of discussions on sexuality) is considered taboo. We don’t even need to be told that a certain act is immoral. If everyone around you, including your parents, teachers and role models, choose to take a stance of complete silence over a topic, there can only be one interpretation - it is disreputable. 

It was only in my early 20s that I realised that masturbation is not an entity in itself that has power over you, it is simply a tool. A handy tool (again, excuse the pun) for self-amusement. It offers the first lesson in exploring sexuality at almost no struggle or cost. I realised that there is no shame in accessing an inbuilt natural mechanism that is a powerhouse of pleasure. Once I busted the hoax and got over the cultural guilt, it remained nothing but a simple joy - that lead to shedding all apprehensions I once had about this natural activity. 

And now when I am nearing my 30s, having observed and experienced a broad spectrum of relationships, I realise that it also is a source of empowerment. For a lot of people who find it difficult to find a partner or are taking time away from relationships to nurse a broken heart, or for the ones who are ill-fated to be physically apart - masturbation is a genuine source of empowerment. Of taking control over oneself and one’s sexuality. Not only is it a respite from the lack of physical love, but also a means to take charge of one’s sexual rhythm. This is not to suggest that masturbation can replace sex. It does, however, act as a substitute when one needs to exercise their choice, or when the circumstances are dire and love seems evasive like it does at times. It is like a cast after a knee surgery until one recovers fully. How can something so supportive and fulfilling ever be allowed to be demonised and misunderstood?

Some may argue that it can be abused; but so can anything else. The reason that open-minded people campaign to destigmatise masturbation is so we can freely talk about it, and those in doubt or in need of counselling can get it addressed. One look into popular “sex-query” columns in newspapers will tell you how confused a lot of us still are about the topic. There are questions ranging from “after how many ejaculations will my sperm reserve exhaust forever?” to “will I fail to get pregnant if I touch myself before marriage?” As laughable as these are, it exposes a genuine knowledge gap in our youth - the ones that are supposed to be at the peak of their fertility. Accepting masturbation as a physical need and openly addressing it, is our way forward to an enriched life.

A word of caution
It is unfortunate that I even have to mention this, but here’s the disclaimer: 
Masturbation is NOT for you to subject an audience to your perversion. Exhibitionism, identified as a mental condition by psychiatrists, is when someone exposes themselves in public and performs sexual acts meant to attract attention. There have been reports of horrified women travellers encountering desperate perverts masturbating in trains, buses, and subways. Make no mistake - this is abuse, and we men are clearly monopolising this appalling behaviour.
So keep it in your fantasies and for heaven’s sake, keep it in your pants!  




Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of

By Jitesh Jaggi
Cover photo credit: