By Hannah Mercanti
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Do you masturbate? Whoops, sorry if that caught you off guard. Clutch your pearls if you want, but the majority of us have experiences with self-pleasure, even if we don’t want to talk about it.
The Eyeopener sat down with Andrew Gurza, a disability consultant and co-founder of Bump’n, a sex-toy company by and for disabled individuals, and Michelle Fischler, a registered social worker, registered psychotherapist and certified sex therapist, to find out everything you never knew you didn’t know about masturbation.
Q: It’s no secret that most people have some kind of experience with masturbation. If it is so common, why is it so taboo?
AG: It’s taboo because we have hundreds of years of pseudoscience and doctors telling us that masturbation is bad for us, and that’s made people really, really afraid of it. I think we just don’t prioritize our own pleasure, because we’ve been taught that pleasure is a bad thing, not something we should value.
Q: How can someone with little to no education about masturbation start to explore the world of self-pleasuring?
AG: You can just start out by spending some time touching your body and seeing what feels good for you. Try not to go in with any preconceived notions about what should feel good, just work on finding a pleasure centre for yourself. Just spend some time with your body—with my body being severely disabled, it is touched everyday by other people, whether it be to get up, to have a shower and even to help me get undressed and in bed to be able to explore my body. So I think it’s such a privilege to be able to touch your own body.
Q: How can masturbation be a form of self-care?
MF: Well, masturbation is a way of being kind to your body and providing yourself with a sense of pleasure. Not to mention, it can really help people sleep! People can use masturbation as a way of grounding themselves when they feel stress. Coping strategies are being able to find a way to get us out of our head and into our body, and there’s no better way to do that than focusing on sensations.
Q: How can transgender and gender non-conforming people navigate feeling gender dysphoria and feeling disconnected from their body during masturbation?
AG: I’m a non-binary person, so I understand feeling disconnected from your body. I would say to trans and non-binary folks that your sexual pleasure doesn’t always need to come from your genitals. Try recentering some of that sexual energy to other erogenous zones, like your arms, legs, earlobes or some part of yourself that isn’t your penis or vagina if you don’t feel connected to them.
Q: How can people that are religious practice self-pleasure without feeling shame or guilt?
MF: What’s really cool now is that there are people who are religious in this world and want to learn how to be sex positive while also being religious. I spoke with a Christian sex therapist who talks to her clients about masturbation using scripture. Try to go into a sexual situation, knowing that some of the shame could come up, but take a deep breath and reassure yourself that you’re okay, this isn’t bad. There’s just been this false attachment between sex and morality where it’s made sex this immoral act and it’s just realizing that sex, sexuality and pleasure aren’t tied to morality. You know, in fact, it’s morally neutral.
Q: How can physically disabled people navigate masturbation when the education out there isn’t really for them?
AG: It’s a lot of trial and error. Often, you need to be creative and take what is already out there and adapt it. I would recommend going to a sex shop. Go with a caregiver, with a friend, or by yourself, and say to the worker, ‘I am severely disabled and I want to get off. What would you recommend?’ Then buy a couple toys and see if they work for you. I have a friend who adapted a bunch of toys using pillows, so it just takes some creativity.
Q: What are some non-traditional ways to masturbate that disabled people could work into their self-pleasure routines?
AG: I’ve read about this thing recently called thinking yourself off, when you don’t even use your hands. You just use your imagination and think about a hot sex scene. If you’re somebody that can’t use your hands at all, you can still get sexual gratification through imagination. I’ve read about disabled people who don’t even use their hands and can come to orgasm just that way.