Home » A Motion for Masturbation – The Naked Truth by Jane Langton (Transcript)

A Motion for Masturbation – The Naked Truth by Jane Langton (Transcript)

Jane Langton at TEDxSFU

Jane Langton on A Motion for Masturbation – The Naked Truth

Speaker: Jane Langton – Director, The Centre for Sex and Sexuality

Event: TEDxSFU 2013 in Vancouver, BC

Listen to the MP3 Audio: MP3 – A motion for masturbation – the naked truth by Jane Langton @ TEDxSFU


Jane Langton – Director, The Centre for Sex and Sexuality

I feel like I’ve been dying to tell the story for a very long time. And as I was preparing for this, I wondered how much of my personal story should I, or would I dare to share. You see, for me to convey the impact of silence surrounding sexuality, I knew I needed to tell my own story. The thought of doing it though scares the hack out of me.

And as much as I do share my personal stories, I never imagined sharing something so private in such a public space. But I’m inspired to do it because I see the positive impact I have on those when I do. And this feeds my soul. So here goes.

I masturbate. And I masturbate regularly. I have most of my life. I used to joke around with my friends that my right arm was much stronger than my left. You see, I am very right-handed. I use this arm and this hand.

But about eight months ago, my life became overwhelmingly busy, and I wondered if that was it for me. I thought menopause, stress, exhaustion, because it was taking me far too long and I was too tired to do it. But I eventually listened to my own advice and realized that or acknowledged that all of those things can affect my sexual health and my general health. Unfortunately for now I’m back on track.

That is my reality. I masturbate. Some people do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t. I haven’t grown hair on my hands, haven’t gone blind and at some point had the courage to share my pleasure with another.

You see, I was embarrassed about it for a long time. And I knew it was important. I knew I needed to eventually share my pleasure with another. How else would they know how to pleasure me? But it was such a vulnerable place to be. And as Brené Brown says in her TED Talk, “the path to each other starts with our own vulnerability” and I believe very little is more vulnerable than sharing our own self pleasure with another.

Not having to get it right was difficult for me because all the emotions around sex and intimacy can be perfectly messy, tenderly raw, predictably gut-wrenching and awesomely beautiful. And at the center of it is my willingness to be vulnerable.

A number of years ago, I finally had the opportunity and the courage to share my story with a group of people. We were talking about sexual health. And I had that opportunity and the moment I brought that up, I swear you could have heard a pin-drop in the room and I realized then even more so than ever the huge hurdles I faced in bringing this conversation out into the open. And my English friend Susan says, “More people would be masturbating more often if we didn’t have to deal with that bloody word” and for many that may be true.

The first time I masturbated with someone else in the room, I thought my head would explode. I thought I’d have an aneurysm because it was taking far too long. I was wondering what was wrong with me. You know, it’s taking far too long. Everyone else takes much less time than I do.

And I thought that an intimate relationship started with being with someone else. And I realized it started with getting to know me, my body, what I loved, what I needed, what I desired, what I craved, what fantasies worked for me, all those things, and then having the courage to share it. And eventually though it took my partner bringing their kindness and patience into the exchange for it to happen. And it didn’t happen the first time, or the second time, or even the third. Eventually, though, it did. I know it’s freaking amazing. Afterwards I cried.

When I told a friend of mine that story, she said, “Jane, you have to share it. Can you imagine how valuable that story would be to so many people?”

I said, “Are you freaking crazy?”

I couldn’t imagine ever doing that. But I’m doing it because so many of us struggle with trying to get it right. I still struggle with it all the time. One minute, I know exactly what I want. I know how to communicate it to a partner. I’m as confident as can be. Next minute, I just want to run and hide. The curious thing.

No two people will enjoy pleasure the same way. Everyone is different and exploring is lifelong. We shouldn’t expect our partners to know how to pleasure us and vice versa. And a great question to ask, as Dan Savage says, is what are you into? In other words, what turns you on? And have the courage to say what turns you on especially if someone asks. I do get, it’s not always as easy as we’d like it to be.

Dr. Richard Wassersug, a professor of evolutionary biology states, “Having sex is natural, talking about it isn’t”. It’s an evolutionary problem. From an evolutionary standpoint, we learned to have sex before we learned to talk. And I got that if I could talk about masturbation, I could talk about so many other things relating to my sexual health and my overall health as well, because this pleasure was good for me. It made me happy, gave me energy, helped me focus, craved my sinuses when I had a cold, gave me some stress relief when I was overwhelmed – it did really — and also comforted me when I was in pain. How could it not be good for me? But remember this is my experience. Everyone is different.

And again why masturbation? Well, as Dr. Betty Dodson says, a pioneer in this field, “masturbation is the foundation for all human sexuality” and I believe it opens up the conversation to so many important other topics relating to our health.

People used to say years ago that I brought up the topic of masturbation to shock them. I’m sure I did way back then. But my wish truly is to inspire awesomely beautiful and healthy conversations with ourselves, our partners, our loved ones, our health care providers, and those we care for, about our sexual health, about intimacy, connection, touch, companionship, pleasure, whatever that is for you. Can you imagine the ripple effect those conversations will have on all aspects of our lives?

Now, men have the luxury and the burden of having their genitals right in front of them for them and the world to view. Few women have seen relishing their own genitals never mind another females except in pornography, but that’s a whole other topic. In fact, we seem to have mistaken our vulva for our vagina. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s no one’s fault in particular but for those who want to have an incredible conversation.

I have with me Dorrie Lane’s Wondrous Vulva Puppet. It’s great for a conversation starter. And it’s also great for a refresher in the female anatomy. I carry a smaller version around with me in a kit. And I’d love to have the male version if she is listening.

I also carry with me a vibrator. And I carry a vibrator with me because women need direct clitoral stimulation for orgasm. So I talk about this a lot. And most men have never considered the pleasures a vibrator can offer them, really.

And I also carry with me the female or internal condom, for men and for women, and you might find me in a local coffee shop doing a condom demo. If you ever run into me, ask for one. Really, why not?

Even though I’m an educator, I’m a human being first and my stories come from that place. We can truly learn so much from each other. Once we have the courage to share, whether solo or partnered, faced with an illness or disability, young or young at heart, then masturbation can have many benefits in the form of boosting self-esteem, reducing stress, reducing pain, helping us sleep, maybe even reducing the risk of incontinence and strengthening the pelvic floor. Incontinence affects many of us. So it just might help that too and it’s just playing good for us.

The World Health Organization states, “We have the right to sexual information and the right to pleasure”. It’s our right our entire lives. Some of the most amazing stories come from people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. Now I’m not just talking about penetrative sex. I’m talking about again intimacy, companionship, touch, connection, whatever that is for you. And I’m talking in part about what Cindy Gallop calls real-world sex in her Make Love, Not Porn TED Talk. She uses it to reframe an open healthy conversation about sex. Imagine if we thought about it that way, how would the world be different, how would your world be different.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if I was unable to masturbate. Given it some thought, worried about it a bit over the years. Well, over the years I’ve also had the pleasure and the privilege in speaking with a number of people who were facing illness or who are living with disabilities. And I asked them what pleasure, intimacy and sexual expression meant for them. And some of them said it’s often top-of-mind.

Is it not human nature that if we don’t have access or can’t have something that we want it even more? And we may not consider a person with disabilities as wanting or needing pleasure, and how my access to pleasure improved our overall health. And what about the lover that now needs to be the caregiver?

I’m privileged to experience the positive impact I have on those who come into my life, allowing them to feel the freedom to express their own sexuality in their own way; it matters to me. It’s why I’m here. It’s the stuff that feeds my soul.

I had someone recently tell me that because of who I was being, they finally felt the freedom to express their own sexuality for the very first time. I bawled my eyes out when I understood the positive impact I had on their life.

I want to talk to the people who were curious, inspiring them to completely shift how they think about themselves. When they’re able to let go of who they thought they were supposed to be, they light up. Now they can be curious, and when they are curious, the world opens up. What would that do for the world to unleash that level of self-acceptance? What would that do for you?

I have one more story. It’s about a year ago, I was sitting outside at a coffee shop across from a lady, she was in her – well, I thought she was in her 60s – she was in her 80s, she later told me. And then we started talking about what I did because it always comes out. And then she said — she revealed to me – “You know, about eight years ago, I lost my husband. And it seems like yesterday”.

And then she leaned in close to me, and she said, “You know, we used to have sex every night”. I thought Wow! That is freaking amazing.

And then she leaned in closer, and she said, “You know, some nights that just meant falling asleep while we were holding hands”. Some nights, that just meant falling asleep why we were holding hands.

Well, I had sunglasses on, and I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks behind the sunglasses. And that was pretty powerful.

Two minutes later, she was off in her cab gone. I sat there for a good long while, digesting and observing how profound that conversation was for me both personally and professionally.

If you are a healthcare provider, please talk to your patients and discuss with your patients and have conversations with your patients, and those who care for, about their sexual health, about intimacy, connection, companionship, touch, pleasure, maybe even masturbation, or at least give them an opportunity to bring it up themselves.

If you are seeking your own information, be your own advocate. Look for someone who is comfortable with the topic, someone who is willing to listen, someone sex positive, because it’s your own health you are advocating for, and for those after you.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, sex and all the emotions around sex and intimacy can be perfectly messy, tenderly raw, predictably gut-wrenching and awesomely beautiful. Most importantly, though, have fun, because we need to learn to laugh at ourselves when things don’t go as planned. But really it’s often the case.

So ladies and gentlemen, you know what your homework is tonight.

Thank you.