In late 2010, one of the Planet Waves editors posted to our blog an article she found about the odd relationship options offered by Facebook (for example, the category 'it's complicated' being a stand-in for everything other than something supposedly normal, without saying what). Following that article back to its source, a blog called Onely.org, I discovered the existence of a singles movement.
There is as much questioning of heteronormative conditioning as there is in any queer community. In case you haven't heard that word, it's a keeper: heteronormative -- a concept to contain all the rules and regulations you're supposed to follow in a world oriented primarily on heterosexual relationships, which are considered the norm -- indeed, there's still a compulsory quality. I am always intrigued every time I see a wedding band flashed in a TV commercial, particularly on a man's hand, which is often. No matter what product they're selling, the other product is marriage.
The idea of a singles movement immediately sounded revolutionary because much of the relationship discussion is about what form of long-term committed relationship one chooses (mono or poly, married or living together, gay or straight), rather than questioning the orthodoxy of relationship. Many people have the feeling that if they're not 'in a relationship' they're not normal. Many places having a partner or spouse is the equivalent of fully-vested citizenship. Once you have someone on your arm, you're allowed into society. Meanwhile, if you're not 'in a relationship', what about all your other relationships. Why don't they count? Well, as for what counts, we're almost always talking Relationship with a big R.
Over the years I've been an astrologer, I've worked with, and heard from, many people for whom the relationship game as it's currently set up simply does not work. Who they are does not fit any known model of relationship, and they cannot seem to find partners who match their values. Many of these people are the aware and questioning types, who strive to live consciously. Many of them even want to be in a relationship that suits them, but don't seem to find suitable situations.
So I was happy to find some information and validation that seemed to be skewed in their direction. Exploring other websites in this genre, the discussion I read was often politically astute and a bit indignant. There was a lot of discussion of why married people get such significant tax breaks. And why should the dentist be asking about your marital status? Is that vaguely relevant to getting your teeth cleaned? If they need to notify your next of kin that you have a cavity, they can call your sister.
Out of curiosity, I started typing the word 'masturbation' into search engines on various singles movement sites and getting nothing back (with the exception of one derogatory reference to 'mental masturbation'). I thought this lack of discussion was interesting and more than a bit strange. Here was a movement advocating living freely and being detached from relationship expectations as a vocal choice.
We all know that many people stay in relationships to assure a supply of sex, even if those relationships don't always serve their other growth needs. To be free of these dysfunctional relationships, it would help (in my fantasy world) to have an idea of sexual independence we could aspire to. And one logical starting point for that would be really, truly understanding one's inner sexuality, and doing well with being one's own lover. But the movement advocating how you can be free of these relationships, at least that I could find that evening, had nothing to say about sex with oneself.
The movement advocating being single was the very last place I would have guessed there was a taboo on discussing solo sex. Clearly, if you're single and want to be, that implies that sex with oneself is not a substitute for anything, and also that (assuming you have a sex drive) it's an entirely necessary state of affairs. If being single implied having a low sex drive, Thomas Edison would have never invented the singles bar.
I wrote to the editor of one of these websites, and after a round of emails that went on for a few weeks, she basically told me that they just didn't feel comfortable talking about self-sex. I admit to being a bit naïve, but truly, I was stunned. Okay, just a little stunned. The lack of authentic sexual conversation is normal fare in our culture. In exploring the many reasons why masturbation is still taboo, we must include that as one of them. But I think it goes deeper. It's fair to say that considerable embarrassment surrounds the topic of masturbation. It's private, and most people would rather keep it that way (unless you count their fantasies of getting caught).
It's about to be May, which was officially designated Masturbation Month back in 1995 by the Good Vibrations toy stores in San Francisco. We now have 31 days of cultural sanction for the conversation. Speaking as an astrologer, I've always thought it was appropriate that the time of year when the Sun is in Taurus (the sign of self-value, associated with physical sensuality) was a great time to start the festivities. And by the end of May we have Gemini lighting up the sky, a delightfully kinky sign associated with the 'dual self' phenomenon -- a kind of inner mirror where you can see yourself as any gender you like.
What exactly is Masturbation Month? It's a little like Chrysanthemum Appreciation Week, only it involves masturbation and it lasts a month -- and it's a lot more radical. I don't think Obama signed a proclamation, but we can pretend.
What would the conversation be about? I would propose that masturbation is about a lot more than masturbation -- and that's the reason it's still considered so taboo by many people, and in many places. First, I would say that masturbation holds the key to all sexuality. It's a kind of proto-sexuality, the core of the matter of what it means to be sexual. I mean this in an existential sense. Masturbation is the most elemental form of sexuality, requiring only awareness and a body. Whatever we experience when we go there is what we bring into our sexual encounters with others -- whether we recognize it or not. Many factors contribute to obscuring this simple fact.
However, people who are comfortable with their sexuality in general are likely to be comfortable with masturbation. It also works the other way. If you want to know how someone feels about sex, ask them how they feel about masturbation and you'll get your real answer. Self-sex is a path to self-knowledge, which is essential to mature, healthy relationships. The less mature relationships can be mazes of ignorance and codependency, and often, sexual dependency is a major ingredient in the glue that bonds these encounters together.
This, in my opinion, is why masturbation, and by that I mean conscious self-sex, is so revolutionary. It's a bold way to be who you are, as you are, regardless of any expectations of relationship.