Hands On

Drawings by Kate Merry

For the latest issue of Twin magazine I wrote an essay based on a new book about masturbation titled With the Hand. To be honest the books isn’t that great, so I don’t recommend you run out and buy it. Instead just read my article, which is essentially just me rambling about touching myself.

With the Hand: A History of Masturbation is a new book by the Dutch urologist and sexologist, Mels Van Driel. The book explores subject of masturbation, looking at its place in history, religion, art, culture and beyond. The gist of the book is that masturbation is one of the last taboos, which is silly since practically everyone does it, and in order to create a more sex positive society we need to abandon the shame-fest and start embracing our love of self-love. So basically, according to Van Driel, we need to stop associating masturbation with feelings of embarrassment, guilt and loneliness, and start having conversations about fingering ourselves at dinner parties.

I frequently write about masturbation, porn and fantasy on this blog (despite my mom’s constant instance that doing so will prevent be from ever getting a “real job”). At this point, it’s no secret that penetrative sex on its own doesn’t feel that good (AKA good at all) for most girls, so masturbation (both on its own and with a partner) is key, because for lots of us it’s the only way we’re actually going to cum. So naturally I agree with Van Driel when he says that masturbation is, you know, “important.” In the book’s introduction he writes, “Perhaps I might be able to put paid to the taboo on masturbation. Or at least put paid to all kinds of nonsense about masturbation.” In light of this, I’ve chosen four topics from With the Hand that specifically interest me, elaborated on them a bit, and also shared some of my own jerk-off stories. Enjoy!


When speaking about pornography, Van Driel says, “It is almost inevitable that the free availability of sexually explicit material will have a marked impact on the sexual morals of the growing internet generation.” He then goes on to talk about the research of Jochen Peter, who studies the effects of internet porn on young people through the University of Amsterdam. Peter says “…those who watch internet porn are less secure and less content with their sex lives,” adding “those who make frequent use of porn are more inclined to see women as sex objects.” Though I believe both of those things to be easily plausible, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and tell you a reason why porn made my sex life (and just my life in general) way better.

When I was a teenager I hated my body. Nothing new there. I had curves before everyone else had curves, and my big hips and butt and boobs made me feel gigantic and un-cute in halter dresses. I spent most of my 8th grade end-of-year pool party crying in the bathroom, and the majority of my first few years of sexual exploration was done with the light off. Then I started watching internet porn. I soon realized that the girls I most enjoyed watching get fucked were not skinny girls. I was way more turned on watching girls with big hips and butts and boobs, because all the bouncing and jiggling made everything more sexy and exciting. So essentially my teenage internet porn addiction helped me develop sexual confidence and a better body image. (P.S. It also taught me lots of other valuable life lessons, like how to deep-throat and never to get a lower back tattoo, but that’s another story.)


In one section of the book, Van Driel talks about 36 year old man from Sweden who was arrested for masturbating onto women’s bike saddles. His conclusion: “men masturbate in the oddest places.” Well, that’s true, but so do girls. Why is he leaving us out? We masturbate in weird places too! It’s actually easier for girls to guerrilla masturbate because when we do it there’s no mess afterward, so we can be really sly about it. We do it under our coats on long car rides. We do it in public restrooms like homeless people while you’re waiting outside, thinking that we’re just peeing. Sometimes we even do it lying in bed next to you, with the blanket draped loosely over our knees and abdomen, and you don’t have any idea. Get a clue!


According to Van Driel, “A celebrated sexologist once claimed in an interview that not only did between 90 and 100 percent of adolescent boys masturbate, but that there was also widespread mutual exploration and horseplay, with a marked competitive element: who’s got the biggest one, who can shoot first and furthest?” He then goes on to tell a story about a colleague who played the infamous ‘soggy biscuit’ game as an teenager, where everyone jerks-off onto a biscuit and the last one to cum has to eat it. Hot. However, the book doesn’t talk much about teenage girls circle-jerking, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my story with you.

When I was about thirteen my five best girlfriends I used to refer to fingering ourselves as “M&M”. The code word meant we could talk about it around boys, or in the hallways between classes, and no one would have any idea. (“Oh my god I ate M&Ms for two hours last night while watching Titanic,” etc.) Then on the weekends, at our regular sleepovers, all five of us would get into our respective sleeping bags, turn the lights off, put on a CD (‘N SYNC featured heavily), and all masturbate simultaneously. Afterward we would sit around and talk about who we were thinking about–whether it was Chris from science class or Jonathan Taylor Thomas or whoever. Particular fantasies were rarely discussed; the specific person seemed more important to us at the time. I’m don’t remember how exactly the ritual began, but we did it as many as 15 or 20 times. It never seemed weird or like a big deal at the time, and having “our secret” made us feel closer. And I’ve since talked to other girls with similar stories. I like to think of it as an underground, teen girl cult, sexual initiation type thing.


In the Sex Aids chapter of With the Hand, Van Driel discusses everything from vibrators to blow up dolls to the specific pleasures that come from inserting a chicken bone into one’s butthole. Fantasy plays a smaller role in the chapter, but if you as me our imaginations are the greatest sex toys we could ever ask for. I mean, duh, in a fantasy everything is perfect; there are no disappointments, no limp dicks, no bad kissers. And fantasies can be as irrational and fucked up as you want–making out with your brother, getting sexy with a seven year old, etc–and it doesn’t matter because they are not real.

As I’ve made clear, I am in no way anti-porn. I love porn, but it can make us lazy. We watch it because it allows us to cum with minimal thought and effort (although realistically it aways takes like 20 minutes to find the video you want so the process always turns out to be more effort than you planned), when really we all have an endless catalogue of pornography in our brains. This might sound depressing, but some of the best sex of my life has been in my head. Woody Allen got it right: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”



20 Replies to “Hands On”

  1. HAHA yes, perfect article as always. I agree with you about the whole porn thing not ruining my life. Porn taught me a lot about sex, including stylistic methodology (e.g enthusiasm is important when sucking dick), but even helped me develop an independent philosophy on sex, not based on my conservative indian parent’s worldviews, or even my peers. I was young and stupid about everything, but remember thinking “anything in sex is okay as long as no one gets hurt unwillingly”. This is nothing groundbreaking, but it sort of is when you’re in middle school and everyone is terrified of sex and anything abnormal. I remember becoming a guidance counselor to all my little lady friends, sharing techniques, emotional advice, etc. The ubiquity of porn only made me more comfortable with how unfathomably horny I was growing up. Thank god for it.

    The only insidious thing I can think of is this: I always watched white girl porn growing up because that’s what everyone around me looked like growing up in the suburbs; but also because there were NOT abundant sexy indian girls in porns! This really isn’t porn’s fault – indians are minority in this country and I’m sure it’s hard to find willing porn vixens in a conservative ass country like India. But anyway, when I finally looked down like five years later and one day realized I had brown nipples totally different from all the cute little pink ones I’ve been masturbating to, I was sad for like two hours until I was like “NOPE they still look great to me”.

  2. i dont agree with all this. i think porn is a perversion & an unrealistic dramatic portrayal of an act that can be so much more than what the average porn site has to offer. i have learned nothing from porn (except that it makes me either uncomfortable because of the lack of anything good in it or that it makes me laugh uncontrollably thus rendering it mostly useless).

    try looking into tantric sex or tantra or whatever

  3. I absolutely love this article. Growing up catholic (you know what they say), it was unruly with such abstract reasons to feel the need to express yourself. Repressing this in myself, I turned to see how others portrayed themselves. In this realization of fuck you Catholicism and before the leap of faith to go against my parents decision, I started watching porn. Moderately. Porn taught me it’s normal to have sexual desires, where Catholicism did everything in it’s nature to almost hide it. Thank you porn. You’ve made me a free spirited bitch.

  4. damn it karley it looks like yo readers havent a clue about porn or pleasuring themselves! you know they do! well, i know they do- or uhhhhh maybe they dont. i doubt it

  5. or wait maybe they are all just sub or dommmmmmes ? who fucking knows .

    maybe you should write a post about how some of this stuff is in the DSM still, like homo shit used to be

  6. i once went for a really long, like a few days hike in the caitlins forest in new zealand, and as i was walking through the forest my mind wandered to all sorts of things, as of course, day dreaming can often lead to sexy fantasising.. and i felt this overwhelming sense of happiness and sex and i lingered behind and everyone else walked on, talking shit about conservation and what have you, and i guess i got bored of them..? i went into the trees, let them go on.. and had a really good time just thinking and touching myself, jerking off off i guess, but it was beautiful, all fresh air and wind blowing through leaves and thinking about lovely nothing lying in the dirt. and then i remembered i had to catch up to everyone, so i fixed my skirt up, and walked away from that place, glowing with a secret. that was cool. so a good example i guess, girls can masturbate in strange places too! and it’s great.

  7. Liberalisation, exploration whatever you like to call it. I recently found out that my boyfriend’s internet history is all about livecams and sex chat. I don’t feel very liberalised. Am I supposed to be fine with it and deny what I am feeling? We have lots of great sex. But apparently ‘by nature boys are visual’. I don’t feel ok, and I don’t think porn is ok.

  8. “blah blah… I love porn, but it can make us lazy. We watch it because it allows us to cum with minimal thought and effort (although realistically it aways takes like 20 minutes to find the video you want so the process always turns out to be more effort than you planned)…” — 10668583760% fact! Makes me feel sane and normal. Same ritual goes for me, or like, everybody else, maybe. At a normal rate I would look through categories from porn sites between interracial & milf//mature if I wanna get myself off in a short period… the odd thing though is that I’m gay. Lolz there’s something about straight sex that makes me wanna get myself off.

    Although going back to world of masturbation without porn, people should learn to turn off their wi-fi or avoid the internet once in a while (yeah, like that would happen), it’s such a huge temptation most times. This is another reason why people from the early years get better screws. Technology makes people fucked up lazy. So yeah as for me I still enjoy the leisure of getting myself off both in long period of time but mostly short because it’s hard to masturbate when you share a room with a twin bro. #Shame! Recently I had a hard time cuming then I got this flash back of this kid from some game show who looks radically underage, kind of pervy plus he’s brunette, as I tried imagining how he masturbate or fuck an ugly mature teacher (#uglysex #milf) I suddenly got turned on, and this makes me sound really weird but who gives a scheisse, at least I came.

    “men masturbate in the oddest places…” —- Another great thing. Try masturbating in the kitchen early in the morning whilst everyone is still sleeping or near awake. Results are better during holidays esp. if you have house guests. Haha

  9. Dan Savage referenced this study when responding to a distraught girl who felt weirded out by her bf watching porn.


    It’s unfortunate that so many guys are ashamed of looking at porn. It’s equally unfortunate that so many girls guilt trip guys for watching porn. When a girl asks you if you look at porn, you’re answer should be a resounding: Yes!

    Ps. I was recently at the feminist porn awards in Toronto. The crowd was about 90% female. I sat next to a 50 year old woman (mom, wonderful family, small business owner, loves documentaries). After the films we had a great chat about which parts we liked the most. She gave me her card and invited me to come check out her foodstuffs shop sometime.

  10. “At this point, it’s no secret that penetrative sex on its own doesn’t feel that good (AKA good at all) for most girls,”

    fuck off Karley, just cos you can’t cum from having a hard cock in you doesn’t mean this is true for “most” girls. If penetrative sex didn’t feel “good at all”, then explain why they’ve made dildos for centuries? Having a dick in you feels nice.
    EVERY girl is capable of having a g-spot centric, internalised orgasm if they learn how..and these will come from having something stiff rubbing inside you.

    Maybe Karley, you’re doing it wrong.

    1. Or maybe a rhino’s penis penetrated your beautiful cunt and your clitoris got shoved 12 inches deep. :)

  11. “EVERY girl is capable of having a g-spot centric, internalised orgasm if they learn how.” AS IF.

    Penetrative sex can feel good in accompaniment with clitoral stimulation, or if you’ve already been turned on. Shoving a dick up there without any warm-up does not feel good. For me at least. Maybe you have a magical vagina.

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