Some of the most moving and ferocious scenes in the dark comedy American Beauty involve Kevin Spacey as the aggrieved, frustrated, hapless Lester Burnham whacking it in the shower and then, boldly, next to his sleeping wife. The scenes speak of alienation, anger and the horror of a life wasted. They could be called art.
But when it comes to self love while others are in the house, I would—with the exception of Lester’s cruel bedside arguments after he’s caught—call that a good Tuesday.
Attached men are, I believe, expected to eschew self pleasure primarily because they’ve got ready access to conjugal activities right there at home. Why play guitar when you can listen to Van Halen on your Sonos? The quality is better, there’s less of a learning curve, and you won’t be embarrassed when you can’t learn the chords to “Jump”!
Don’t we deserve a little alone time? Don’t we deserve to pull a Lester Burnham now and again, even if it means we risk getting caught? Maybe we want to be caught?
But, as Chandler from Friends knows, there is nothing quite like a bit of “me” time. What is the den or home office but a carefully engineered masturbatorium? What is the lonely hotel room in a strange city but an invitation to solo perversion? And what is a locked bathroom door but an opportunity to swipe right for the next jpeg?
Look, everyone does it. Everyone. My friend M. notes that you simply have to be careful when touching yourself while others are nearby.
“Medium is key,” he says. “You have to know when you can watch a video or when a GIF is enough.” M. also likes to have his phone volume turned down at all times, just in case the mood strikes.
Male sexuality in marriage or in a relationship hasn’t been studied with any real intensity, at least not that I’ve seen. I’ve read Mating in Captivity and Sex at Dawn and, quite rightly, much of the writing and research has to do with female pleasure. Males are simple creatures. We need very little to keep us happy and, with rare exceptions, we can control untoward activities with a bit of manual release.
Don’t we deserve a little alone time? Don’t we deserve to pull a Lester now and again, even if it means we risk getting caught? Maybe we want to be caught?
There are essentially three schools of thought when it comes to one-player games, and they break down along religious lines. One primitive school notes that the wife or lover should be enough forever and ever and ever and that masturbation is cheating. This school is wrong. The other school offers the idea that boys will be boys and, you know, out of sight out of mind. Finally, there are the lucky couples who talk about the act and integrate it into their lovemaking. These people are really great.
In the end, however, it all boils down to one thing: Sometimes, without warning, the mood strikes and humans have options. One is to wake up your significant other after a day of carpooling, piano lessons, work, stress and Homeland and work things out. Another is to, pad to bathroom in the dark of night, phone in hand, and do what needs to be done. Perhaps some would say that the former is superior in growing the relationship, but goddammit if you guys can’t even keep your eyes open long enough to read a Kindle book page then why force the issue?
After all, the night is cool and dark, the house is quiet, and, as the blood pumps through your body, you’re reminded that of all the pleasures, sometimes the solitary ones, the forms of self-care you bring to your own body, are still the best. And maybe, as the house creaks around you and the crickets chirr, you’re doing just what you want to do at exactly the right moment. It’s not angry, it’s not selfish, it’s just you. And that’s pretty cool.