Written by Anonymous
Masturbation is a lot like dream-making. It is instinctual, self-validating, and diversionary. When you masturbate, you fantasize about the most pleasurable moment that your reality cannot afford to fulfill. You lay in bed, pull the blinds down, close your eyes, and suddenly find yourself naked in an all-red room—hands sprawled open, legs spread apart, and head resting on a cloud-like pillow. Sitting atop your chest is a femme fatale—beautiful, fierce, ready to devour you alive. You desire all of her: her slender feet, the back of her neck, her petit breasts, the underside of her forearms, her blood. She is sexual, appetizing, Siren-like. You, the Odysseus, would do anything—bite the ropes, cut your wrists—just to undo the knot that binds you to the mast. You would sail to her and let her sing for you, with you, of you. You are desperate to land a warm kiss on the tip of her nose, taste her fingers, and unleash your tongue to trace the contours of her inlets, her shore, her trenches. You crave to possess her, claim her, and become one with her. You know she will not budge, or refuse, or close her eyes to imagine another man. She wants you, and this is a fairy tale. Pound, strike, gulp—and you have her whole. Rub, shake, release—and you have come all over her.
But have you?
For all I know, we do not masturbate and think about Greek mythology. We open our computer, find a porn video online, and voila. The spellbinding aspect of masturbation lies in our belief that our erotic fantasy is idiosyncratic. We construct an alternate universe—a unique world where we are desired and desirable. We get to choose, from a repertoire of our imaginary characters, who our partners are, what they look like, and what fetishes they have. We refuse or are unable to think that other people could possibly have the same fantasy. In our minds, our masturbation methods are very particular and our soft spots are specific. We gently massage the head, not shake the entirety of; we use two fingers, middle and index, not one or three; we prefer our underwear on, not off. Could other people have the exact same combination? Rare, you’d think.
But this is why a masturbation addict would prefer a relationship with their hands to one with actual people. Love-making could often feel like a bit of a performance. Yes, it is real, done with real people, yet still very much staged. There is always something to compromise during love-making. A deal has to drop in the negotiation process because your partner is simply ‘not into it’. The result? Disillusionment. You have spent all this time envisioning what the night was going to be like, perhaps toying with your privates, and essentially masturbating but without the discharge. Yet when the time has finally come, everything is different: their arms are not that big, there is a huge mole on their back, their breath smells like tuna, etc. Moreover, in love-making, you have to play a role—the boyfriend, the one-night stand, the husband about to conceive a baby—and depending on which role you take, you have to adjust your pace accordingly. You are reckless and rough as a one-night stand. You become tender, slow, and loving as the soon-to-be father. You are alert and vigilant as the boyfriend because you have three other girlfriends to conceal this love-making from.
Masturbation exempts us from all that; it cuts the strings that make us marionettes. In our fantasy, we may or may not turn out to be ten times more attractive (it is possible that we may not even conjure up a picture of ourselves in that world), but we are guaranteed to be free from our self-consciousness. When masturbating, we do not think about our weight, the size of our arsenal, or how satisfying our moves are. We are who we are, and the focus of our attention is geared completely towards enjoying ourselves. We do not satiate someone else’s thirst—though theirs is often ours, too—or be the Prince Eric to some Ariel. We need not shave our legs, brush our teeth, or dress ourselves up to allure our partner to bed because, unlike love-making, masturbation doesn’t involve dancing around our desire. Masturbation is all leg-hair, foul odor, and self-devotion meshed into one.
I am not, however, trying to vouch for masturbation against love-making. I understand that the most pleasurable experience of masturbating could never possibly substitute the sheer intensity and connection that one shares with their partner in love-making. Besides, masturbation is not as magical as it used to be pre-internet. It is not dream-making anymore; it is only dream-making-like. In fact, it is now less dream-making and more dream-borrowing. We do not actually create the fantasy anymore; we simply put a spin on the already-made, mass-produced porn videos we watch. We type our ‘category’ on the search bar, maybe change the actor’s face to resemble our crush, and move on with our business from there. We no longer orchestrate the entire concert, nor do we establish the plot of our story. We are rip-off musicians, who simply alter Bach’s Cantata No. 140, butcher some bits here and there, then claim the composition ours. We are playwrights, who gleefully announce that we have written an original, spectacular play, only to find people jeer atus as they realized that half of our content was lifted off Prometheus Bound.
I should admit here that I used to masturbate a lot on the cusp of my adolescence. I was about twelve or thirteen when my family finally moved to a house that granted me a single room. Internet had not reached the small tropical village where we stayed back then. On Friday nights, I would furtively close the door that separated my bedroom and my father’s study, telling him that I was going to read and that I needed to be alone. I would close my eyes, think about this twenty-something girl named Mawar from my last neighborhood, and imagine myself, suddenly twenty-five, kissing her and branding my hands on her breasts. I was not as religious back then, and my fantasy world was God-less. In that universe, I was suddenly in control of everything and immune to hell. I became territorial, and did not want anyone to walk into my intimate space with Mawar. I just wanted her mind and her body only. Mawar, my rose. Embrace me. Hurt me. Prick me with your thorns. Wilt over my shoulder. Be mine.
It was a mirage, but it made me beyond happy and surely helped me finish the job. Yet given how small our house was, my parents were eventually bound to barge into my room and discover the Satanic act that I was capable of doing. They berated me, as parents would, and gave a lecture on treating my body as a vessel for God’s spirit, reminding me that I had to protect and nurture it. I was embarrassed. Anyone would be. Why is it that when one breaks into a room and finds a couple making love, they, the intruder, are the one who should be embarrassed, but when one catches you masturbating, you, the intruded-on, should somehow bear all the shame? Both love-making and masturbating are taboos. Both are filthy. But why is the latter more deplorable? Is it because fantasizing is shameful in and of itself? Is it because masturbating is essentially a sign of defeat: that you do not have the courage to ask real people to do the pleasurable act for you, that you are aroused but have no way of channeling your sexual excitement, that you are ugly and that’s why you resort to masturbating, because no one wants to make love to you?
My theory is that masturbating shows how dissolute and dirty we are. When masturbating, we often opt to forfeit our conscience and our adherence to any forms of social rules. We no longer think it racist that all the Mawars in our fantasy somehow have a pristinely fair skin tone and skinny figure. What? It is a preference. How is it perpetuating skewed beauty standards? It is not objectifying at all that the men in our wildest fantasies are all Christian Greys—muscular, bearded, white and wealthy. Dreaming of the most repulsive scenarios will not make you debauched either: having intercourse with your mother, kissing your half-sibling, kneeling down for your Math teacher… it is all fantasy, you’d say. It will not materialize. Dreams are meant to be wild. Masturbation is only diversionary.
I guess that’s why I used to masturbate a lot. I was, in fact, hooked to the act. It derealized my surroundings. There was no need to consider the ethics of my desires. My fantasy was only wishful thinking, and all I did was swim in the sea of filthy dreams. Indeed, I stopped masturbating long before I started dating my now wife Puji, but despite my effort to leave everything behind, I’ve failed terribly at casting away my makeshift, twisted imagination. The more I try to settle into my reality and understand that my Mawar, my Siren, has only one face and that I need to cleanse myself of my sin to embrace this beautiful, chaste Puji into my life, the more wicked and befuddled I become. It is as if Satan has latched itself onto me and is now not letting me go. My fantasy somehow always finds a crack through which it seeps into my reality and then imposes itself over…
Was that Puji I made love to the other night or Mawar with tanned skin, shorter hair, and tummy rolls I had yet to discover? Did I tell Puji to keep humming when we made love on our honeymoon night because I wanted to hear the dulcet and soothing voice of my lovely, enchanting Siren to reassure myself that my boat was indeed heading in the right direction? Was I or was I not dreaming when I suddenly closed my eyes, thrust myself into Puji, and realized that her insides felt as delicate and soft as a bowl of rose petals that I did not want to bruise her even though I longed to go so hard on her? Did I choose Puji because of her generic look and her ability to easily mold into any woman I want?
The truth is, I do not know if I desire Puji. I am not so much as certain whether my constant yearning to make love to Puji, who still reminds me to this day that I am her husband first and a sick sex addict second, is because I want her or because having sex with her is my way of stemming my unyielding drive to masturbate. Without Puji, I would milk myself at least twice a day. Without Puji, I would sin beyond redemption. She is my rebound, my second choice, the shield I would hide behind on the day of Judgement. Marrying Puji was my way of resolving my internal turmoil and blurring everything together: love-making, masturbating, dream-making—what’s the difference now? Puji, Mawar, and Siren are one and the same. As long as I stay within the confines of marriage, as long as I resort to love-making and not masturbating, and as long as I respect, cherish, and am willing to sacrifice anything for Puji, even if my feeling for her is not that of love, no one can call me perverse. God Himself cannot even point His finger at me and say that I have sinned, for I have not crossed any boundaries. All I do is dream: where’s the harm in that?
My fantasies—O, my dark, precious fantasies—I vow to protect them, for they shall stay ablaze. They shall, as Dylan Thomas said, rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Artwork by Yung Cheng Lin