So how does a hush-hush subject like masturbation get a month of its own? It started in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. After a speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, an audience member asked Elders about masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She answered, “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”
That was the end of the first black Surgeon General’s Washington career, but the beginning of National Masturbation Month. The founders of San Francisco based sex toy and education shop Good Vibrations said, “Enough is enough!” They wanted to do two things: keep up the conversation about Elders unjust firing and make people talk about masturbation.
Good Vibrations recognized many people needed support and advice about the very act of masturbating. One of the first things they had to do is provide reassurance. They made sure people knew it was okay to masturbate in the first place. For so long, shame and stigma have been attached to masturbating. Yet the truth is it is an activity so commonplace, natural, pleasurable and healthy it is said “ninety-eight percent of us masturbate, and the other two percent are liars.”
Since then, Good Vibrations has held annual events used as public health education programs to increase awareness of self-pleasure as a strategy for safer and healthier sex and to de-stigmatize masturbation. Their events have also worked to get people to talk about the act, instead of giggling or remaining silent. After all it is the ultimate in safe sex.
Written by Stacy Lloyd for EmpowHER April 30, 2010.
Stacy is a writer and video producer in Phoenix, Arizona.