Not everyone is on board with the health benefits of masturbation. The fact that we get to talk about it at all nowadays is an important advancement. Society wasn’t always this open minded about self pleasure but like most events in history it’s tolerance has ebbed and flowed depending on the culture and the time. In some ancient cultures, and even a few more modern ones, masturbation is thought as a natural and normal part of life. There was a fervor against masturbation in the 18th, 19th century and early 20th century when not only was it a religious issue but a medical one. During this time medicine was still nothing much more than a guessing game laden with folk wisdom and very little actual science. Many treatises were written about the perils of masturbation. It was said to lead to a variety of maladies of the mind and body and often thought of as a disease that could have fatal consequences. Even naturally occurring nocturnal emissions were diagnosed as the disease Spermatorrhea. The Victorian era saw a plethora of anti-masturbation and nocturnal emission prevention device patents. Hard to believe these cruel and often painful devices were ever created much less used.
Jaws That Bite, Claws That Catch
Pointed teeth and sharp clamps seemed to be a popular Victorian idea for preventing erections which might lead to ejaculation, or worse yet lure you to touch yourself then lead to ejaculation or orgasm. There were a variety of sheaths that used tiny teeth to wake the wearer in the hopes of stopping any potential night emissions. One of the most popular among anti-masturbation research articles is the Spermatorrhea ring or Jugum Penis. It has a teeth filled trap that went around the penis and was clipped so it was secured at the base. This device was sure to wake you if getting aroused during sleep thus deterring nocturnal emissions and masturbation. Not all painful measures used pointed teeth but other ways to use pain to wake the wearer. The Bowden device was a metal cover that was slipped over the penis and clipped to the pubic hairs. Basically if you became aroused, it ripped out pubic hairs as a sure fire way to wake you. The pain of tearing out pubes would put a damper on that impending erection too.
Sheaths and Trusses
There were a variety of sheaths and trusses given patents in the Victorian Era. Sheaths seemed more of a rarity with trusses, basically male chastity belts, being more common. The goal was to either prevent your member from growing thus preventing the possibility of ejaculation and/or prevent yourself from touching and manipulating said erect penis. One example is a mechanical sheath created by Raphael Sonn in 1906. This tight metal sheath had a close enough fit that removal would cause intense pain or mutilation. It could only be opened with a tiny key. Harvey Stephenson’s Spermatic Truss patented in 1876 was a device that strapped the penis into a pouch that was then strapped to the leg to prevent erection. A later version of this device didn’t strap the penis to the leg but instead provided a spike-lined pouch to deter erections. Cage devices that were even recommended by medical journals may not necessarily have prevented erections but prevented being about to do anything with them. Fitting over the penis the cage would prevent masturbation by preventing the hand from coming into contact with the penis. You could also get a metal covering for the penis and testicles, sort of a steel codpiece worn under clothes, was a way to prevent the wearer from getting aroused or touching themselves. Examples of these metal casings show holes for urination and a bit of air circulation. It looks like they attached to your waistband or may have had a waistband of their own.
Shock Therapy and Alarming Options
Albert Todd created a device in 1903 that you slipped your member and testicles into and if your penis grew beyond a certain length would trigger an electrical discharge to the testicles. This metal sheath with a series of coils attached to a harness was designed to be worn at all times. Other devices used electricity to trigger an alarm system. A cord or wire would be placed on the penis so that an alarm was triggered if there was growth or movement during the night. This was often marketed as a way for parents to monitor their young boys. In 1899 George Dudley came up with a device that when triggered by an impending erection rang a bell to wake the wearer. Joseph Lees created a harness in 1989 that had an “alarm loud enough to waken even a heavy sleeper.” Lees also created a kinder and gentler version of this device that used “soothing classical music or other pleasing medium” by attaching a gramophone to the device.
Cold Showers, Hot PJs and Armored Bodysuits
Frank Orth developed a “cooling” device in 1893. Putting on these cooling underpants the penis was put into a pocket that was between two levers. Should an erection happen, a small fan would be activated to send cold air through tubes to shrink the erection. There was also a version that used cold water to cool the organ so that “the erection subsides and no discharge occurs.” Basically it’s the Underoos version of a cold shower. There were other devices that tried to keep not only your body cool but also the distracting fabric of your bedclothes away from your genitals. An odd device that hooks to your raised knees created a tent of sorts to keep fabric away from your groin. As if that wasn’t enough, full body coverings were used to prevent wandering hands from getting to genitals. Ellen E Perkins developed “sexual armor” in 1907, a cloth bodysuit with metal plates that had locking zippers. Her device was created because “It is a deplorable but well known fact that one of the most common causes of insanity, imbecility and feeble mindedness, especially in youth, is due to masturbation or self abuse.” It saddens me to see this device was marketed for the institutionalized, more specifically mental patients, as a way to stop them from touching themselves. Such cruelty.
An Era Devoted to Extreme Anti-Masturbation
The list of anti-masturbation and excessive emissions techniques seems endless while researching this era. At its peak they used everything from circumcision without an anesthetic, metal staples, exercise, electric shock, extreme fear tactics and modified diets to cure this terrible disease that was ruining physical and mental health. Once we get into the 1930’s and 40’s these extreme ideas start to wane. The Kinsey era arrives and we start to understand that sexual bodily functions are normal and healthy. During the Victorian Era, even though their doctors were attempting to cure Hysteria with manual stimulation and vibrators, it was not thought of as bringing on orgasms for women. Women had their own brand anti-masturbation devices and techniques geared towards them too but that’s an article for another day.
There are several months out of the year that get so busy I can’t even think. August is one of them. On the busiest weekend in August I’m looking forward to a little oasis of free time. I’m sitting in a row of chairs closely lined up together so I decide not to break out the Kindle. It’s mostly got erotica on it right now that is bit more racy than the copy of Fifty Shade of Grey that is being read by an older woman sitting further down the row. I decide to flip through an LA Weekly instead even though I’d rather be reading a book. I am slightly amused by the thought of summer being a time to catch up on reading. You see it written about everywhere and always with a stock photo of someone lying lazily in a hammock or on the beach with book in hand. I always fall behind on my reading during the summer. It’s hard to find real mental down time between keeping the kids occupied enough to not kill each other, family commitments and dancing.
As I rather mindlessly gaze at the pages I stop momentarily on an ad for a romantic getaway. It is in that moment that my mind wanders while looking at the romantically entwined couple in the photo. A private jet and champagne sounds wonderful on this insanely hot day filled with responsibility. I lose myself in the notion of being swept away. Specifically I’m suddenly in an episode of Doctor Who and I’m being invited on an adventure exploring time and space. It may look like I’m reading the same page in the paper for 20 minutes but I’m really somewhere else. Unfortunately my reverie is broken by the women next to me who strikes up a conversation for no other reason other than I’m there and she has nothing else to do. As I am abruptly forced back into reality a word pops into my head. “Escape.”
I had spent some time thinking of this word several weeks ago but it took on a special significance to me at that moment. I was thinking of it in terms of physically getting away. Getting out of an unhealthy situation, getting away from routine or simply going away on vacation. It occurred to me that we could not only physically escape but also mentally escape. We can lose ourselves in a fascinating book, a compelling movie or a favorite television show. I love to escape into books, movies and television. I unfortunately find less time for these things in the increasing hectic state of my life as a Mom of two young kids. Luckily I have one form of escape that has stood the test of time. A place I love to go when there is too much going on and life is overwhelming. Or even just a place to go when there is time to kill. It’s my own head, the theater of the mind, my daydreams.
Daydreaming is sometimes thought of as a waste of time in a culture that seems obsessed with productivity. Recent studies have discovered it has many benefits. Not only can we use it to problem solve or boost creativity it can also help us get through the relentless pressure we often experience. Cost of living on the rise, air travel so expensive it’s out of reach of many and the need to work harder to just get by can be tough on the brain. Taking the time to tune out for a moment can give us the break we need to keep going. Perhaps that’s the allure of Christian Grey and the reason behind the popularity of the Fifty Shades series. Daydreaming about being swept away by a handsome rich man who attends to your every need, even controls your daily life, can be a welcome relief when taking control of your life gets stressful and difficult. Imagining yourself being romanced by vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, on a pirate adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow, capturing spies like James Bond, exploring along with Indiana Jones or, in my case, racing through time and space with The Doctor are all wonderful ways to escape. We can put ourselves in the starring role as the seductive vampire, the swashbuckling pirate, the super spy or we take the passenger seat and be the Bond girl, the anthropologist sidekick or a Doctor Who companion.
While I’ve used my daydreaming to be creative or problem solve I mostly use it to tell elaborate stories. Books I’m forever writing in my head but never putting down on paper. My daydreams are complex productions in which the concept of escape is played out in storylines that can last for days, weeks and even months. I daydream about being taken out of an ordinary life and led by the hand into an extraordinary adventure. Sometimes I spend a little too much time in this dream world, especially at times when life has been the most stressful, but it’s a survival technique. I need those moments where I become rock star, travel through space, meet a vampire (I prefer Lestat to Edward) or save the world in the nick of time. If I couldn’t daydream I’d have a lot harder time dealing with financial hardships and the challenges of parenthood.
My little mental get away keeps me going. It’s an oasis, a sanctuary. Daydreaming requires nothing to facilitate it and can be done pretty much anywhere. You can continue a storyline from a book or show, imagine that vacation or adventure you’ve always wanted or have those illicit sexy encounters you’ve never had. It can be a safety measure to ease your brain in times of anxiety and a way to work out problems creatively. Going over a future project or recalling the events in a recent meeting can be done while waiting at a street light or washing the dishes. These moments where your mind wanders can provide answers to a difficult problem or help you learn from a mistake. It can also get your mind off of your troubles long enough to relax and reboot your brain. Take a moment to let your mind wander and escape. It could do you a world of good.
Originally published on Silence Cupcake
Over nearly my entire life, at least since going through puberty at an early age, there’s been a cold war brewing in my mind and body between sex, stress and depression. There is a seemingly never-ending battle between my libido and the physical and hormonal effects of stress and depression. I would fall from the ecstatic highs of a healthy sex drive to frustrating lows that make you feel like your body has just flipped a dampening switch. I also had those pesky libido reducing hormones that come out only when a women becomes pregnant and has children.
My depression and stress level only worsened so about two years ago I delved into how stress and depression affect your ability to feel any interest in sex or even find it enjoyable. Hormones and chemicals are released that pretty much chase away your sex drive and even diminishes your ability to enjoy sex when you finally get around to it. Depression not only releases chemicals that have a negative effect but also packages it along with negative thoughts. Mentally and physically you can be your own worst enemy when it comes to sex.
There are two factors to look at when assessing depression’s effect on your sex drive. One is how neurotransmitters and hormones released by depression will lower your libido and the other is the mental state of mind in which your brain thinks you out of wanting or enjoying sex. Stress and anxiety can significantly increase at the same time. Research has suggested that all this can trigger the release of hormones that can suppress your sex drive, very similar to how stressful situations release chemicals that produce the same reaction. Basically it’s like the stress of the holidays (feeling overwhelmed, over scheduled and stressed out by family, work or events which can be accompanied by severe depression) all year long.
Researchers have noticed that the release of neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine have something to do with depression but are not sure how or why. Antidepressants work for some because they regulate these neurotransmitters. Reuptake inhibitors (reuptake is when the released substance is reabsorbed) work to keep these chemicals in your body longer. SSRIs regulate serotonin reuptake and are the most common. SNRIs regulate serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake while NDRIs regulate norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake. The last is represented by only one drug, Wellbutrin. There are also SARIs, MAOIs, Tricyclics and Tetracyclics. I simply have no space here to go over them all. Each works in a different way to prevent reuptake.
While this may work with some people it doesn’t with everyone. An even more disappointing fact is while anti-depressants may make some feel better, pretty much all of them suppress your sex drive. So while they may work to make you feel better, arousal and achievement is difficult if not downright impossible while taking the medication. There isn’t even conclusive evidence on how these neurotransmitters really work to contribute to depression. Concrete research results are difficult to come by. Research continues into depression’s connection to neurotransmitters, the limbic system and the role of the hypothalamus.
When you experience stress and anxiety hormones, the hypothalamus, the adrenal cortex and the pituitary gland all have a part in releasing hormones. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (or epinephrine) can be helpful to you in small doses as it increases heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate. Basically part of your fight or flight response. Cortisol suppresses low priority functions that make you less effective in times of crisis to help you focus and save energy for things needed to survive. Cortisol will actually inhibit sex hormones. So depression is probably triggering reuptake of chemicals you need to feel better and once you add stress to the menu you are releasing chemicals that suppress your libido.
Welcome to my world, the magical world of stress+depression.
On top of all this you have the subjective issues that accompany depression, those things that you can’t really assign to a chemical or hormonal imbalance. Depression comes with a reduced, or completely removed, ability to experience any kind of pleasure. You simply stop enjoying everything, including sex. You also have other issues affecting your desire. People with depression may lose connection with their partners or feel no arousal with new partners due to their feelings of disconnection or desire to withdraw from the world. This can even mean lack of physical touch of any kind resulting in the loss of certain chemical releases that accompany touch, especially prolonged touch such as hugging or kissing. (Hello oxytocin!) Depression can trigger anger or anxiety, both enemies of fun in the hormonal/chemical release and reuptake battlefield. Anxiety, a stressor, can in turn deal out things like lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, irritability, lack of energy and constant worry. These can then turn into highly negative thoughts about yourself or bringing you constantly into the worst-case scenario mindset.
None of this is conducive to feeling sexy or fostering positive feelings about sex. A combination of these things can put a great strain on a relationship. You can find yourself in a nonstop circle of feeling depressed, lack of sex and intimacy creates tension or strife in your relationship, which triggers depression and stress, which keeps you from wanting or enjoying sex, which triggers more anxiety/depression/stress. It can be a frightening non-stop carousel of negative emotions.
Working on your depression and trying to remove stressors can help. Talk to your partner and your doctor about ways to minimize these effects. Taking time for yourself even if it’s just 10 minute a day can really help. Meditation or meditative breathing can help calm you and increase the amount of oxygen you’re receiving. Take a look at your diet; poor choices can actually decrease your sex drive. Watching what you eat and daily exercise (as little as 20-30min a day) has been known to decrease the effects of depression and stress which could then lead to an increase in desire. Find time to connect with your partner that doesn’t have the stress of sexual performance involved. Hugs, simple kisses, even just holding hands can help to release those feel good chemicals. Sometimes attempting the sex you want, even if your brain is telling you it’s not interested, sparks the body over the mind. Talk to your partner and come up with things that will work for you.
If you don’t have a full time partner look for these connections elsewhere with family, friends or a local cuddle party. Non-sexual touch can help you feel more connected with yourself and others while in turn lure that libido back when needed. A hug releases oxytocin after 20 seconds so hold on a little longer if you can. Make time to talk, share stories, have a laugh, make eye contact (another hormone releaser), anything that can connect you with others and your partner will help to undo some of the destructive effects of depression and stress.
Your brain is your largest sex organ but it can also be your biggest enemy. While the cold war may never actually end, depression is a life long issue, you can remove yourself from the battlefield and have a fulfilled and sexy life again.
Originally posted on Life on the Swingset