I was reared in a home where sex was never mentioned; I never even heard the word "pregnant." How I managed to get to be 11 years old before learning the facts of life I do not know, but I did. I moved to a new school when I was in the 5th grade, and there I began to get a real education in things I'd never heard of. I knew where babies came from, of course, but I had no idea how they got there.
I am a 53-year-old man living in the U.K. I have been a regular (perhaps even a compulsive) masturbator all my life. However, I have also had a continual struggle to reconcile my feelings of guilt, the condemnation of my church, and the disinformation from my guardians with the pleasure I have derived from this universal activity.
I grew up in the 1950s in Calvinistic South Africa. It was a very straight-laced and conservative place — still is, in many ways. My mom was very religious, and sex, in any form, was not a subject of discussion. At school the word "sex" was never used. We would talk of "gender" or, maybe, male and female. A form might ask what your "gender" was. At least the modern forms say "sex" — to which I always want to respond, "Yes, please!"
My nearly 9 years of masturbation have been plagued with misinformation. I keenly recall one of my early experiences: I was watching Saturday Night Live, and Dr. Joycelyn Elders was being portrayed, just after all the hoopla over her now-infamous remarks. At that time, I had just turned 12 and had been getting erections for some time, but was still uncertain exactly what they were good for other than embarrassment. Speaking with my parents on anything sex-related was, and still is, difficult.
My first orgasm occurred at age ten when I was climbing a metal pole on a playground. I had been pulling myself up with my arms and then tightening my legs around the pole while I slipped my arms up and continued climbing. When I got near the top of the pole, I experienced the wonderful, thrilling feeling of my first orgasm. I held on to the pole very tightly while it happened, and then I slid back down and sat on the corner of a sandbox to think about the experience. I was very excited by the discovery.
I discovered this wonderful aspect of human life when I was 13. How I discovered it is quite a long story, perhaps similar to others' experiences.
From my earliest memories, I knew "playing with myself" was fun. Right behind that memory is the memory of my mother telling me not to "play with myself," so never again did I do it — in front of her, anyway. No big deal was made of it, but I sensed it was not an activity for her to see again. My siblings were sisters and we all satisfied ourselves that boys and girls were different and pretty much let it go at that.
You mention little about it in your web site, but certainly, men who aren't able to enjoy their masturbation are likely to confuse it with intercourse and subject women to the experience of being masturbation simulators rather than real persons with whom to interact. This is a common infliction of men, especially those who were educated Catholic, which taught that masturbation is sinful. How the church has distorted what should be the natural pleasure of every man is so bizarre, even more bizarre than what they have taught women about the sinfulness of sex.
I am a Catholic priest with over 40 years' experience of a religious vow of celibacy. 30 years ago one of my priest formators was preaching that "masturbation is just as natural as blowing your nose." But I could never quite get my mind around that, having swallowed the official teaching that masturbation was a mortal sin. But just recently a non-catholic friend said to me: "Masturbation is a necessary expression of your masculine sexuality," and something clicked. I thought about it for a bit and could see how masturbating helped me to really live in my body and to own my sexuality.