Two things that have enjoyed a vogue under lockdown: banana bread and wanking. But, much like the unsung hero of baked goods, masturbation has been around long before lockdown began – it’s just now, more so than ever, that we are singing their praises and celebrating them in the way that they have always deserved. Online views of banana bread recipes surpassed one million just in the week of the 29th of March, at the same time, New Zealand’s largest sex toy retailer saw sales triple, and the term “sexual wellness” was up 850% on Cult Beauty in the month lockdown landed in the U.K. While indulgence in self-pleasure might be a little more straight-forward for those living alone, for those of us now back in the family-home there can be some tensions between our teenage bedrooms and our now adult bodies…
We’re all familiar with that classic teen fiction scene where a parent walks in on their, pretty much always male, pride-and-joy pleasuring themselves. No doubt that, for male as well as female students, this same scene has been played out in households across the world with equal measures of embarrassment. As much as the shame surrounding both male and female masturbation has been addressed and somewhat alleviated in recent years, it’s still a matter we prefer to keep as separate as possible from our families (much like all other aspects of our sex lives). With lockdown still pretty much in full-swing the notion of ‘alone time’ remains a vague and distant promise – which means masturbation will remain your bedroom’s best-kept secret for a little while longer and, unless you are fortunate enough to live in a large house with decent sound-proofing, vibrators will remain in retirement, collecting dust in the same drawer where you might keep condoms, lube, and other currently redundant items.
Where sexual frustration is at an all-time-high, these additional barriers between ourselves and the much-needed orgasm can bring even more resentment into the family home than there already is. Although I do not know the perils of younger (or older) siblings who often have a limited understanding of boundaries and personal space, I am limited in my lockdown ‘leisure time’ by the narrowness of my terrace home in which we are, quite literally, on top of each other. There are few things more off-putting than hearing your neighbour’s microwave ping when you’re nearing climax. It is partially these sound-proofing issues and partially the general lockdown ennui that has hindered my ability to fully engage with this particular quarantine activity. Seeing so many posts hailing the blessed quarantine wank have made me feel a little uneasy about my low lockdown libido, especially as someone who has cultivated a personality around ‘sex positivity’ – an ideology which celebrates masturbation as much as all other forms of sexual fulfillment. It’s yet another thing to get fomo over when in reality, like banana bread, wanking is something to be enjoyed as and when you like with as much or as little gusto as suits you. In times of stress, such as these, I try to avoid forcing my body into something that isn’t coming naturally – in fairness this does also mean I haven’t exercised properly in a month.
Olivia Duval’s artwork can be found on Instagram @livduvaldrawings