Heroes of Masturbation - Alfred Kinsey
For this heroes of masturbation post, I'm going way way back - all the way back to 1948. Many people know about Alfred Kinsey. He is widely considered to be the father of sexuality research. He was a professor and researcher who founded the Institute for Sex Research at the University of Indiana.
Kinsey was the first person to study people's experience of sex and sexuality on a large scale. In the early 1940's, he began interviewing men about their sexual past, their interests, and their behaviours. In 1948, he published these findings in the book 'Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male'. In 1953, he followed that up with 'Sexuality and the Human Female'.
While Kinsey's research methods and his choice of subjects have been questioned, especially in later years, there is no question that these studies helped to open up conversations that were considered completely taboo at the time.
Kinsey helped to expose the fact that what our society and culture tasted as 'normal' and 'healthy' was very different than what people actually did in their own private lives and how they felt about themselves and about sex. I believe that Kinsey's studies helped people feel better about themselves as sexual beings because they could see that they actually are 'normal' - the things they might have felt were weird and shameful about themselves were the same things a lot of other people did or thought about.
This was the case very much the case in regards to masturbation. Kinsey and his researchers conducted detailed interviews with thousands of people. 92% of the men and 62% of the women they interviewed said they had masturbated at least once in their lives. Many said they did it quite regularly. In spite of the fact that masturbation was, particularly at that time, considered by many to be deviant and possibly even an indicator of a mental health issue, Kinsey's research made it pretty clear that the majority of people did it.
(side note - my personal belief as to why the number for women is so much lower than for men is twofold. 1) women were, and are, discouraged from touching their bodies even more than men are and 2) the actual number was probably much higher but because women were, and are, judged even more than men for touching themselves, there were likely a large number of women who did not feel comfortable admitting to an interviewer that they masturbate).
Even though Kinsey's reports showed, that it's quite a common thing and that it was fairly evident that it was not caused by, nor did it cause, emotional or sexual issues, our culture has clung to the idea that masturbation is not 'normal'. Although we've taken a lot of huge steps forward, masturbation still largely remains a taboo topic.
But those of us who understand that it is a very common and very healthy practice can point to Kinsey's studies, almost 80 years ago, of proof that it's really not big deal. If the majority of the population is doing it, how could it possible be so strange and so unhealthy?