Masturbation May: How Dr. Carol Queen And Good Vibes Changed The Calendar

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Masturbation May: How Dr. Carol Queen And Good Vibes Changed The Calendar

May Is National Masturbation Month, but why?

In 1994, President Bill Clinton fired US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, spawning an iconic month-long holiday in the process: Masturbation May. Elders was let go for calling masturbation a natural part of human sexuality and advocating for it to be taught in sex-ed at schools. Many people were shocked that Elders was removed from her job simply for speaking out on this critical topic. But it just goes to show you how repressed the world is when it comes to talking about pleasure.

Dr. Elders, who made her comments at the  1994 United Nations World AIDS Day Conference, was the second woman to serve as surgeon general and the first African American woman to hold the position. Despite being an outspoken and inspiring voice for the people, Clinton forced her to resign.

In an act of defiance, the team of activists over at the pioneering sex toy retailer Good Vibrations declared May as National Masturbation Month. Since 1995, Good Vibes has used this day to honor Dr. Elders and to help normalize discussions about masturbation. 

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One of the pleasure activists in the room was author, sexologist, and sex educator, Carol Queen, PhD, who has been with the retailer since the beginning of the ’90s.

Dr. Queen shared, “The firing of Dr. Elders upset us all so much at Good Vibes—because erasing shame about masturbation and acknowledging all the good it can do was literally our foundation. We called a meeting immediately and a group of us sat down to brainstorm responses—when the idea for National Masturbation Month was raised, we all knew that was IT. 

I have spent nearly 30 years now talking to the press and public about NMM, and I every minute I have been proud to represent this history and the activist ideas and effects it has unleashed. It is especially necessary to remember this in 2024—because shame and opprobrium are roaring back, and we must protect sexual diversity and education for yet another generation.”

What was the goal of establishing Masturbation May?

Good Vibrations didn’t think that this act of rebellion would get Dr. Elders justice when they established this day. But they did hope it would galvanize people to talk more frankly about “taboo” topics like sexuality and pleasure – specifically, self-pleasure. Their goal was to stop history from repeating itself and to allow people to think more sensibly when it came to conversations about sex rather than feeling threatened.

Decades later, we’ve come a long way but still have miles to go. In 2023, multiple states restricted sex ed. Some bills could pass that would ban or limit educators on teaching things like consent, sex, and self-pleasure.

Sex ed isn’t a priority for many, but it should be high on the list. Young people deserve to live better, healthier lives while having as much knowledge as possible about their bodies.

How can we change the stigma, and how often do people really masturbate?

Speaking more openly is the answer. But we can only do this by giving sex educators a voice and encouraging the public to ask them questions. We can only do this by preventing the silencing of people like Dr. Elders. Abstinence-only education is a threat to our future, and discourse about safe sex starts with openly talking about masturbation and celebrating its glorious benefits. When Dr. Elders was interviewed for the National Visionary Leadership Project, she said, “Eighty percent of women masturbate. Ninety-five percent of men masturbate. And the rest lie.” 

As always, honesty is the best policy!

But how often do women masturbate, in reality? Or how often do men masturbate?

According to this study from Bed Bible, women masturbate around 27 hours a year, while men do it around 46 hours a year. In other studies, we find that there’s also a pretty big difference between the genders. We think it’s time to close that gap and show the ladies just how great touching yourself can be. 


How to masturbate

Not sure how to masturbate and achieve the orgasm of your dreams? There’s no shame in that. Using your hands and fingers is the best way to start out for both penis-owners and vulva-owners. You can start to figure out what sensations you like. For instance, do you prefer soft or hard touch? Does it feel better when your finger pinpoints spots or when your palm stimulates more broadly?

Using sex toys from online stores like Good Vibrations, Babeland, Fun Factory and Love Not War can help you figure out what you like. Thanks to technology, there is a range of sophisticated, high-quality pleasure products to experiment with for both men and women, from wands and bullet vibes to sex toys that simulate oral sex. There’s no “best way to masturbate” – just experiment with what makes you feel good, and that includes explore audio erotica and erotic films by ethical creators like Erika Lust.

Still lost? There are plenty of workshops and sex coaches to help you work on techniques while figuring out what you enjoy with a little guidance.

What are the benefits of masturbation?

Orgasming releases chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, prolactin, and serotonin. These chemicals create feelings of well-being and relaxation that can help improve one’s life in many ways. 

      • Boosts self-esteem and mood

      • Decreases stress

      • Improves sleep

      • Lower the risk of prostate cancer

      • Improves mental health

      • Enhance your sex life

      • Teaches you about your body

    The bottom line

    Masturbation is self-care. It’s radical self-love. And every May, Dr. Carol Queen and Good Vibrations reminds us of that with this important holiday they’ve coined, advocating for sex positivity and encouraging future generations to do the same. Now that’s something worth climaxing for!

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