GETTIN' WHACKY WITH IT
May is National Masturbation Month. So what's your pleasure?
By Perry Crowe
Not that you needed a reason, but May is National Masturbation Month. This celebration of self-love began years ago in response to the firing of then-Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, after she suggested masturbation might be a useful tool for sex education. Ah, the stigma of masturbation. Blindness, hairy palms, insanity. Maybe it's that "onanism" tag that rubs some people the wrong way. Truth be told, Onan's seed-spillage was more of an F.U. to his older brother (and God, as it turns out) than the self-lovin' of a good wank.
"The benefits of masturbation are endless," says Kristina Garcia, manager of Babeland, a sex-toy store on Melrose
Avenue. "Relaxation. Stress release. Release of tension. Also, it's just learning about sexual response and what you like. Not many people are used to talking about sex on that kind of level. People are just expected to know what to do to each other, having never spoken about it or never taken a class on it. It's ludicrous."
Garcia, an L.A. native, returned home seven months ago to help open Babeland's L.A. branch after a stint as the manager of the chain's flagship store in Seattle. To celebrate National Masturbation Month, Babeland will be hosting a free erotica reading on May 18. Featuring local authors as well as employees reading from their personal erotica favorites, it's bound to titillate. But be forewarned: No masturbation will be allowed. How ironic.
Babeland is part of a growing trend of female-owned sex-toy stores, including The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, Good Vibrations in San Francisco, and Come As You Are in Toronto. That feminine touch goes a long way toward making such places more aesthetically pleasing and woman-friendly than the dimly lit XXX stores of the past with their greasy, mustachioed sales clerks and shambling parade of customers.
"We don't want to represent ourselves like a traditional sex shop," says Shelby Jones, who taught a class on the female orgasm last month at The Pleasure Chest. "We don't have viewing booths. We don't have dark corners. There are a lot of people on the floor. People ask all the time, 'Do you get a lot of creeps in here?' A creep would be somebody who is just looking to jerk off in a corner. To be honest, they do walk in here, they look around, and they go, 'I don't belong here.'"
But if you are looking for a place to jerk off in a corner, Good Vibrations, the founder of National Masturbation Month, is hosting a masturbate-a-thon in San Francisco on May 27. The self-love marathon offers semi-private men's and women's sections, a public mixed section, and a stage for a live webcast on Bondage.com. With participants getting sponsored for each minute of masturbation, the event raises money for the Center for Sex and Culture, a nonprofit group dedicated to safe sex and general sex education. The current masturbation record for men is seven and a half hours. The women's record is six and a half hours. Seems important to note that "masturbation" in this context is defined as "stimulation of some sort for the purpose of sexual arousal" and not necessarily gilding the lily directly.
"Think Mike Myers rubbing his tits," suggests Robert Lawrence, cofounder of the Center and creator of the live masturbate-a-thon.
If the idea of sidling up next to a stranger or 50 to engage in the private bliss of masturbation seems a bit contradictory, Lawrence, who has an educational doctorate in sex ed., suggests the modern concept of privacy is only as old as the modern house. He posits, "When people lived in large open rooms or communal areas, sex was a bit more of an open thing."
Whether alone, in pairs, by the dozens, out in the open or shuttered away, have a very merry month of May.
Babeland, 7007 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 634-9480. Babeland.com.
The Pleasure Chest, 7733 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 650-1022. Thepleasurechest.com.