National Masturbation Month 2013: What is It?

An entire month where masturbation is endorsed? And you're actually encouraged to partake? Totally awesome.

It all started in 1995, when the San Francisco sex shop Good Vibrations created National Masturbation Month to raise awareness for the safe, healthy, and free practice from which so many people shy away — at least, from talking about it.

"Many people still feel guilty about [masturbation], or feel they do it too much, or feel it's a second-best substitute for 'real' sex," the Good Vibrations website writes (NSFW link). "Masturbation is, for many, the cornerstone to a healthy and good sex life. It isn't second-best — it can give you the information and awareness you need to enjoy the rest of your sex life. Self love rules!"

That's the kind of discussion that Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was trying to facilitate when she suggested in 1994 that masturbation should be an integral portion of sex education in schools. Unfortunately, this radical suggestion cost her not only her reputation, but her job as well. She was ousted as surgeon general after only 15 months on the job.

"If I had to do it all over again today, I would do it the same way," Elders told CNN in 2005. "I felt I did it right the first time."

Luckily, Good Vibrations picked up where she left off, and has since raised tens of thousands of dollars for various sexual health charities, all while promoting a healthy way for people to satisfy their sexual cravings.

The "masturbation taboo" has persisted for hundreds of years, making its way into our legislation (not just as a tongue-in-cheek response to personhood amendments) and forever providing misinformation to the masses. 19th century doctor John Kellogg even described masturbation as "the vilest, the basest and the most degrading act that a human being can commit" (though he was also against sex in general — how depressing).

Today, National Masturbation Month serves as a platform for sex-positive businesses and individuals to not only promote sexual well-being, but also to inform others of the health benefits of masturbation. Additionally, "masturbate-a-thons" are held across the country, and it's just what it sounds like: people masturbate for as long as possible to raise money for sex education organizations.

Keep in mind that people who identify as asexual or are otherwise uninterested in sex aren't being left out here. For some people, masturbation just isn't their thing, and that's totally okay. Part of the freedom of sexual expression is having the freedom to not partake in sexual activity, without being chastised by those who do. Just because something like masturbation is normal or widely practiced doesn't make someone abnormal for not being interested.

Even if "masturbate-a-thons" aren't your thing, this month is a great time to take a look at the sex-negative aspects of our culture and think about how we can improve upon them. An easy way to start is by donating to an organization that promotes sexual well-being, health, or education: the Foundation for Sex-Positive Culture (NSFW link) is a good one, as are sexual health centers like Planned Parenthood.

Good Vibrations's website (NSFW link) has a plethora of resources for everyone from first-timers to veterans to learn how to satisfy themselves. From there, it's all about you. Remember: if it feels good, you're doing it right.