Self-touch, or self-massage, can be an invaluable aid in learning about the unique sensitivities of your body. Often a concentration on genital involvement leaves vast areas of pleasure and arousal unexplored. Many approaches to sexual therapy include a recommendation that individuals and couples deliberately avoid stimulating the genitals for a period of time in order that the sensations in other body parts can be appreciated.* All the fuss and furor, and guilt, and secretiveness about masturbation testify to a fear of the body in general, and of pleasure in particular. For many, the guilt learned in childhood endures. Kids - both boys and girls - generally play with their own genitals because it feels good! Yet, because parents are embarrassed by these behaviors, they often stop the child's touching with slaps, harsh words, and demeaning looks. While our culture encourages pleasure seeking in some domains, and advertises it everywhere, self-initiated pleasure in sex is still considered suspect or somehow inferior. Perhaps it has to do with a work ethic that attaches a price to pleasure, or that presents it as a reward for service. Some of us actually harbor guilt in experiencing joy and other good feelings.†
*McCarthy, B., and E. McCarthy. , Sexual Awareness: Couple Sexuality for the Twenty-First Century
(Carroll and Graf, 2002); and Davis, M., The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple's Guide
(Simon and Schuster, 2004).
† Laquerr, T., Solitary Sex: A History of Masturbation