Do you have a favorite Surgeon General? I do. She was probably the one with the shortest term, too. Joycelyn Elders.
She was Surgeon General under President Clinton and was only in office for a short year and three months. She caused quite a stir from the beginning of her term, advocating for things like looking into the benefits of drug legalization and distribution of contraceptives in schools.
Her most controversial stand, though, was on promoting masturbation. She felt that it should be taught in schools and could help prevent people from other riskier sexual activity. She made this public stand at a conference on AIDS hosted by the UN in 1994 and was let go afterwards.
She’s right though! Masturbation is a super important part of human sexuality. It helps us learn about our bodies, what we like and don’t like, what kind of fantasies we are interested in, and helps prepare you for better sex when you are older. Also, can you imagine what it would be like to be open about masturbation during sexual education instead of just being terrified of the topic? We could let kids know that it is normal, healthy, and that (most) everyone does it.
I also agree with Ms. Elders on the prevention aspect of masturbation. Imagine kids that tried mutual masturbation instead of, say, oral sex? Or, if kids felt more comfortable with masturbation, they may get a better hold on all those raging hormones.
It’s not just important for youth, though. Masturbation is also important for adults. I wish the topic didn’t make so many people squeamish (including me, sometimes!) but it’s something we should be open about to our partners. Partners should understand that to have separate sexual lives that include masturbation is healthy and normal. And, masturbating in front of each other can open your eyes to new things about your partner’s body that you weren’t aware of.
Holding the opposite view on masturbation, though, is John Harvey Kellogg. Yes, the same Kellogg as the guy who invented Corn Flakes. Kellogg was vehemently against any kind of sexual activity that was not intended for making babies, even in marriage. He called it unnatural and even performed circumcision on boys without anesthesia to discourage them from masturbating. To girls, he applied carbolic acid on their clitorises. Oy. Wait, what’s normal? Putting acid on someone or allowing them to follow their urges?
Anyways, back to the cereal. Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as a part of what he felt was a healthy regimen that would discourage masturbation. Because masturbation is unnatural.
So, world, fight past the awkwardness that is talking about masturbation. It’s normal. It’s good for you. It’s healthy.