You wouldn’t think there’d be anything new to say about masturbation. It’s like the number seven. There it sits between six and eight, holding its place, and there isn’t a damn thing you can say about it that hasn’t already been said.
Until U.S. Senator Sam Brownback came along. He’s the U.S. senator who filled Bob Dole’s spot when he retired, and yes, he’s from Kansas. I hate making fun of people for doing things like this, but in high school, he was the national officer of Future Farmers of America. You just knew he would be. Whenever I feel bad for making fun of Future Farmers, I read that Brownback’s very much in favour of Vietnam, Sudan and Uganda following human rights conventions. Yes, he means the human rights conventions the U.S. refuses to follow. Then I feel less guilty.
Plus Brownback’s website is so hokey it tells you the Kansas State Animal is the American Buffalo, once hunted almost to extinction. It boasts that the African-American photographer Gordon Parks was one of Kansas’s greatest citizens. Naturally, I reach for my copy of Parks’ autobiography, Voices in the Mirror, where he writes that the first 15 years of his life, spent in Kansas, came close to “warping his mind” forever.
Why am I telling you about Senator Sam? Salon magazine tells me that he regularly holds public hearings on sex, a courageous move in a field where I am always eager for new information.
What got my attention was the testimony of Jill Manning, a sociologist from Brigham Young University (that’s Mormons), who told the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights that masturbation sets off 14 neurotransmitters and hormones in the human brain, causing an explosive chain reaction.
Hot diggity, I thought, I gotta get me some a this.
I didn’t actually think that. I’m just assuming that’s how the Anti-Sex League of Missourah talks. What I actually thought was, no wonder people masturbate. It sounds better than liquor, better than the laughing gas my ethical dentist stubbornly refuses to give me for a cleaning, better than the sight of Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset, which truth to tell, is kind of boring.
Even I, with my touch of OCD, only hit six neurotransmitters from lining up newspapers and magazines on my coffee tables, one pile for letter-size, one pile for broadsheets, one pile for tabloidsâe¦
Of course once I studied the report more closely I realized that Manning was not describing masturbation. She was describing an orgasm. Little does she know that you can get those from sex with other people, including fine people (or peoples, if you’re Mormon) to whom you are legally married. Guys don’t have to be in front of the computer all by their lonesome. They can have orgasms from close friendships.
I say “guys” because my understanding has always been that men make up the big market for pornography. But apparently I am wrong. Manning says that fully one-third of online pornography watchers are women.
I’m not sure I believe this. I would think it’s physically difficult for a woman to masturbate in front of her computer, for the same reason that we can’t pee standing up so we have to line up for the washroom at rock concerts while the men saunter by, but that’s another column. And if you’re wearing pantihose and your chair has armrests, and you need both hands to type and click and you’re French-kissing your monitor, how exactly âe¦ I won’t say more, but I still say online porn is a guy thing.
I won’t get into the morality of porn and the brutal exploitation of the people being filmed because when Republicans talk about masturbation, everything goes far beyond the land of things that actually matter.
Another expert, the porny-sounding Pamela Paul, explained to senators that people watch a movie, read a book, listen to music, but they masturbate to pornography.
This is patently not true — you can do all four to porn, which is what makes it so darn popular — but who cares. She went on to say that men masturbating to (with? at?) online porn ignore their wives. For, she said, if men want to have sex with their wives, “practically speaking, they have to make sure they have done all of the chores around the house they were supposed to do. They need to have a half-an-hour conversation about what they did that day.” And why the hell would they do that when they can blow out 14 neurotransmitters with five minutes on their Mac?
Why indeed, I say. And there you have Republican marriage. I remember a poignant line from an ’80s sitcom called WKRP in Cincinnati in which a golf-panted salesman named Herb Tarlek described his marriage with all the quiet desperation a human can muster. “My wife thinks sex is a reward.”
The odd thing is that a female would testify that sex is so bad that women can only endure it in exchange for having their driveways power-hosed. What is Mr. Paul doing, or not doing, to this poor creature? Speaking as a feminist, I say drive a harder bargain. I wouldn’t have sex with a guy that hopeless for less than a forest-green SmartCar and ballroom dancing lessons.
Also, what’s the point of conversation about the day’s activities? What’s to say? Him, he made money. Me, I wrote stuff. End of story. I bore even myself. We try not to discuss the house: “Squirrels ate the windowscreens, there was an ominous “clink” in the shower this morning and the whole spigot deal needs replacing, the rollerblind fell on my head again and the estimate for the porch windows is 16 grand Douglas fir, 11 grand pine, can we stop talking now, pour me a gin and tonic and let’s blow some neurotransmitters.”
These hearings aren’t about men masturbating to avoid their spouse and its mop; they’re about Republicans not admitting their own great fear: gays. That’s why these hearings always end up with the same thing, as this one did: Should Americans be allowed to see online close-ups of anal sex? They don’t realize that gay sex is as varied as straight sex. There’s tons of other stuff you can do. If I were a man sweet-talking my girlfriend, I’d phrase it this way. “Um, would you be offended if I had anal sex with you but I put a bag over my own head so I don’t have to see it up close?”
I now see why no other rabble-ite leapt to write this column. I sound like a Republican.