Marina Krleža: I Consider Myself a Great Masturbator

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I have always considered myself a great masturbator. I like that word, harking back to Dali’s 1929 painting, “The Great Masturbator”, which I discovered in high school and have felt great fondness for ever since. When I say I am a female version of that painting, it is a heartfelt admission. I would really like to have met more women in my life who were just as ready and vocal as I am to advocate this pleasing act of making love to yourself.

I think I will long remember this date as the day when I said this, the indicative statement in the title, openly and in public. Everyone who knows me personally must have heard it from me — and approved of it — quite often over the past decades. It always brings a smile to my face. Few things in my life have been so relaxed and happy as masturbation.

As I’m writing this, the feeling is somewhat like getting out of the closet, even though I’ve never really been in the closet where sexuality is concerned, despite the fact that the society has tried to keep me — and everyone else, you included — there. I’ll say more about the ways society is doing it later on. Anyway, I have not really been willing to adapt to the society. When I wanted to masturbate, I did. When I wanted to talk about masturbation, I did.

I found it easier to talk about it in the sexual context with men — both friends and lovers. I’ve always had a lot of friends around me, and quite enough lovers. It was much more difficult to talk about masturbation with women, and it happened quite seldom. There was absolutely no word on masturbation in the nonsexual context (sociological, medical or others), either on TV, with parents or relatives, or in school. When we mentioned it in school, once in the biology class, it was presented as something done solely by men. It was as if women just did not masturbate. I sometimes wondered if everything was all right with me; whether I was really normal.

If we look at the issue from the Freudian aspect, we can see that the child has more than a decade of life between the first stirrings of libido and the first sex. What is he or she supposed to do during that time? Wait in ignorance? It’s like denying a hungry body food for years. The only difference is that the body will die without food, and will not die without pleasure. But why suppress the desire for pleasure? Is it really so bad, especially if we do it alone, with our own self, without a whiff of danger from either the unwanted pregnancy or STD?

Imagine being a young person (I have masturbated since the age of 4) who enjoys something throughout the childhood and adolescence, but has never spoken a word about it to anyone. Not a word. This young person couldn’t admit masturbating to anyone, even though it is an intrinsic human act, like eating food or drinking water. It is a natural thing, done by instinct, an evolutionary trait we have built-in, rather than something we bring on ourselves by volition. Did that happen to you? Then you know what it’s like. Should this happen to future generations, too? It does not have to.

I think I was asked about masturbation for the first time by a priest during a confession, in preparation for the first communion. It was based on the catechism in which masturbation and sexual intercourse before marriage were treated as a sins. Priests could absolve you, but would remember it very well and ask about it again later.

The priest would ask me if I had committed a carnal sin. Although the adjective always souned pretty silly and unrelated in a meaningful way to the pleasure that the act made me feel, I responded very shyly and said frankly that I did. He would sometimes also ask if I had enjoyed it. With my head bowed I’d admit I did, and felt great shame. I’m writing this column today because of that unpleasant feeling of humiliation,  because I do not want any child to feel that anymore, ever. Where have the heart and the soul of the Church gone? Where is its empathetic God? Invoking any sense of guilt in a child without educating it properly first is simply unacceptable.

According to the Bible, was masturbation there first, before sex, or was sex the first, followed by masturbation? Is sex the chicken and masturbation the egg, or vice versa? Can there be chicken before the egg? Perhaps it looks as if I’m joking, but it’s a very serious matter. I have been mulling these philosophical-existential questions over for years.

I wonder what God says about it. The Church says that sex was first and foremost. And not only was sex there first, but it was the one and only thing. The Church denies masturbation, excludes it as part of human sexuality, mentioning it only as an undesirable form of instant pleasure that harms psychological and physical health. And I ask you — how can we get to know and understand another person sexually if we have not sexually understood ourselves first, by satisfying ourselves?

The Church acts as if God did not have libido. As if God never masturbated. Hello, Church — don’t you realize that God is a solo player? That He is the greatest masturbator? He is the only one who has never had a partner. If we were born of Him and His will, He had to spill His seed somewhere. Please, don’t tell me God does not masturbate, let alone that He has no libido. If He didn’t, how could man be created in His image? Who’s pulling whose leg here?

I think God is deliberately silent on the issue in order to deceive women. He wants them to abstain as much and as well as possible, so that they become as exemplary mothers and wives. Those roles have fitted them over decades and centuries; why should anything change?

He has not been able to deceive me yet. There were days in my youth when I would masturbate for hours, just like a lot of my male friends, lounging in bed, not counting orgasms after the fifth anymore. There could be seven or eight a day. Today, when I’m 39, my maximum is three or four. On the average I masturbate two or three times a week but there are always exceptions. They mostly depend on external circumstances.

It’s a fact that, as you get older you do need masturbation a bit less than in the younger days. Not so much perhaps because the body is aging and the libido slowly abating, but simply because one uses his time for more important and productive things, like work, childbirth, work, making money… did I mention the material side of life? You may have libido the size of a house but it won’t cover the rent, the loans or the cost of living.

This column is called ‘Sexurbations’ not just because the name has a ring to it and sounds original, but also because I want to give masturbation the same importance as sex. If not bigger. I personally like it even more and I practice it more often than sex, after the old folk saying – you spend your entire life with yourself but only apart of it with others. Giving love is a wonderful thing, but to be able to give it to others, we must first love and know how to satisfy ourselves.

Yours, in sexual sincerity,

Marina