My friend Ron called from Savannah last week. It’s a ritual in which he reports from the Deep South where he lives with his partner Jason. Ron wanted to tell me about a new Web site he’s discovered, one which shows men and women masturbating live, all over the world. I can tell he’s excited by the discovery, perhaps not just from a sexual view point but from a sociological stance as well. Maybe.

“It’s amazing,” he tells me. “Everyone is beating it, all over the world! Czechs, Muslims, Koreans. Everyone’s doing it live, and on camera!”

I take a moment to drink this in. I’d been to enough porn shows in NYC to know that most of the people who take off their clothes do it because they need the money or they are the type that should leave them on. People who want to share this private moment with you are most likely the ones you don’t really want to view in their onanistic private ecstasies. It doesn’t really appeal to me, this cyber exhibitionism; some things should be left to the privacy of your own noir. But perhaps this is just me being a prude in my old age. I would certainly cause trauma to most viewers if I participated myself.

“But get this,” he continues, “do you know what the crazy thing about this site really is?”

I don’t. It seems like fairly cut and dried content. No subplots, no post-modern deconstruction or Marxist diatribes.

“I give up,” I say, “what is so crazy about your jack-off site?”

“Everybody beats it the same way,” he says. “Everybody.”

Again, I was taken aback. You mean I do it like you and you do it like me and we all do it the same way? Then I thought, Could this be it, could this be the one great thing, the common denominator that unites men and women all over the world? Men who believe in Allah, men who kill for a living, men who calculate taxes, women who live in nunneries, patients in mental hospitals, those who don’t believe in God? Could this be the one deep and running thread that stitches us all together regardless of whether we speak Swahili, Esperanto or Norwegian, the unity of keeping a common beat?

Believe it or not, this started out as my holiday blog, but I went astray somewhere. My intentions were good. I wanted to write about the great men and women, Lenny Bruce, Martin Luther King, Mother Jones, your mom and dad and mine and how they all sought to bring us together by celebrating our commonality rather than our differences. And once we accepted our common bonds, we could grow and learn to love our differences down to the minutest details, including whom we rooted for in the Super Bowl.

I live in a neighborhood populated by Somalians. I have tried to to take this theory of commonality to my streets. I have often wondered what mutual bond we share, the Somalians and I, what fat we might chew should we decide to sit down and share a brewski.  Or whatever native drink they might imbibe. Frequently, I encounter one of my Somalian neighbors in a line at UDF or Speedway and I try to see what they might be be buying so that I might relate and perhaps use as a way to slide a foot into their somewhat impenetrable door. A Red Bull maybe? Or some jalapeno Doritos? A quart of Millers?


Try Lactaid. A gallon of distilled water. A jar of decaf. What do these people live on?

I stand behind them and compliment their colorful garb which is so vibrant as to send me into a brief spin of blotter acid flashback. Suddenly the walls are breathing and I’m inside a giant amoeba which is slowly digesting me. Just as quickly, I snap out of it.

“That’s a beautiful scarf,” I say with my friendly Midwestern howdy-bub smile.

“Nejezulblezookskalomboomyha!,” replies my fellow shopper in what seems to me a cross between a mild rebuff and a distant thank you. Somehow I have the feeling that my compliment  was returned to sender. I think to offer them a bottle of Yoohoo chocolate drink from my basket but think better of it. Such beverages might violate a deep cultural code. They may worship the cocoa bean and vow never to drink it, I don’t know.

They probably said something like it’s against my honor to talk to foreign dogs. Who knows? What would Lenny Bruce do? Mother Jones? I don’t think a bond of masturbation techniques is going to help us here. Common global denominators seems an elusive phantom.

Perhaps masturbation could be just a first step in dismantling our differences. No matter how we do it, online or off, we are just a planet of rabid self-abusers. While wallowing through another holiday season, it’s nice to think of the bonds that draw us together rather than those which separate us. There are bonds and we need to exercise them. Come on people! We share DNA, a love of beer and cable TV and watching Tiger Woods unravel. And now, with this news flash from my fried Ron, we seem to march to the same beat, at least on the Internet. With such common interests, can we overcome our differences? I believe we can. Get busy.

Happy holidays.

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DAVID C. BREITHAUPT was born in the heart of the Cold War, in 1959. He grew up in central Ohio, the youngest of four brothers. His mother was an artist; his father, a political rabble rouser. He studied fine arts in college. Lived in NYC in the 1980s where he worked in various bookstores, including the great Brazenhead on East 84th street. He was an archives assistant to Allen Ginsberg and worked with his amazing staff. Did some part-time work as a newsstand checker for Rolling Stone. Quit drinking in 1987. Fell in and out of love. Kept moving. Moved back to Ohio with his family, Christa, Kate and Jo - worked in a college library. Snuck his work into various magazines like Exquisite Corpse, Rant, Main Street. Wrote bio-lit essays for the American and British Writers Series (Scribners) on James Purdy, Anna Kavan and Denton Welch under the editorship of Jay Parini. He edited a book on the works of writer poet, Charles Plymell called Hand On the Doorknob (2000 Water Row Press). Buy it now, please. His work is in the anthology, Thus spake The Corpse vol. 2, Best of the Exquisite Corpse (Black Sparrow Press, 2000). (Please buy that, too.) Breithaupt currently lives and work in Columbus, Ohio, for a sports newspaper while making occasional contributions to his federal restitution. He just finished a memoir with the working title Dada Entry: Picasso, Proust and Federal Prison as well as a collection of short stories, My Curves Are Not Mad with an intro by Jonathan Lethem. He is looking for publishers. Thank you.

27 responses to “Can Masturbation Save the World?”

  1. Darian Arky says:

    If anything, I wonder if masturbation doesn’t promote a self-centeredness that is counter to a unifying trend. And, as a lefty, I’m just never going to understand how it’s done the other way.

    • Interesting point. Though now that it’s going online, it’s not so self-centered anymore. And don’t discount the aspect of fantasy – you may be alone but you probably have someone on your mind as you …you know. It’s always nice to think of others.

  2. Part of me wants to be a trendsetter and come up with a new way. But then, I don’t want to create a rift between myself and my fellow man. Especially if the world’s salvation is, uh… at hand.

    Apparently there may be a link in men between higher levels of masturbation and lower levels of prostate cancer. So hooray!

  3. Becky says:

    I was sure this was going to be about overpopulation. I wanted the masturbation site to be an activist thing. Maybe someone should start one.

    Anyway, lots of Somalis in MN, too. I’ve noticed that they don’t have the “smile just because” thing that a lot of Minnesotans do. Like, they’re not going to smile at you unless there’s something to smile about.

    It’s a major cultural stumbling block. I suppose they must think we’re stupid or savage to go around smiling and chatting up strangers like that–easily amused and forward–and we take it personally when they don’t smile back or give us our requisite, “nice weather today,” as Upper-Midwestern politesse dictates.

    • Masturbation covers a lot of ground, it’s hard to do it all in one blog. I was mailing xmas packages in a crowded post office this weekend. Some Somalis went to the front of the line without waiting their turn. The Post Master bitched them out. One of the women went to the back of the line, bitching loudly in Somali the whole way, the only words I could understand were ‘fuck’ and ‘hell.’ Yeah, I’m always afraid I’m stepping over some cultural boundary. Speaking of waiting in line, I noticed at the Grand Canyon, where there were many Japanese tourists, that they they did not get the concept of a line. Is waiting in line an American cultural tradition? I know the Russians are fluent in it. But damn, it’s not a hard concept. Anyway, thanks.

      • Becky says:

        I’ve heard that about some places. Apparently, queuing up in an orderly fashion without being asked is a very Germanic thing. Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, America. In Italy, Spain, etc., I guess lines are catching on, thanks to our influence, but there are still places you can go where it’s kill or be killed. You snooze, you lose.

        I should offer, as a caveat, that this is strictly secondhand information, and there may be many very orderly lines in any of those countries, but I have heard that it is unique to Germanic-influenced places for it to be so automatic.

  4. Piet de Best says:

    Hi Dave,

    People in the Netherlands only masturbate up to the age of 18, whereupon they are taught in school that the correct thing to do is to go to the sex-worker of your choice and have them do the hard work.

    Can masturbation save the world? Save the world from what? Precision in language is very important.

    Best book about masturbation: Portnoy’s Complaint
    Best song about masturbation: Shebop by Cindi Lauper

    These last two points could be argued against, but then the person doing the arguing would be wrong.

    Happy Solstice,

    Piet de Best

    • Thanks Mr. Best. Better than Cindi Lauper’s song would be Michael Jackson’s Beat It. As for saving the world, I mean saving it from itself. You know the old Pogo strip. We have met the enemy yada yada.
      Regarding language, remember what Mr. Vonnegut said; your language is full of wooden shoes. Ho ho ho. Anyway, cheers, have a good time this holiday season in your adopted Netherlands.

  5. Shit, I meant to read this sooner, really, but I was at work and I didn’t want the word ‘masturbation’ popping up anywhere on screen.

    Anyway, you’re right, I believe. I think people all over the word are busy jackin’ it, and if they’re not, they’re probably the same tight-ass motherfuckers that make nasty rules and oppress people.

    Maybe. Just a theory.

    • Man, do Koreans know the word ‘masturbation’? I feel bad, I don’t know the Korean word for masturbation. Wouldn’t recognize it on a screen. I can barely order General Tso’s chicken and that’s not even Korean. Americans are hopelessly uni-lingual (even tho I know some French and Polish). Anyway, thanks, your theory is probably correct. Have some Kim Chee for me.

      • Do the Koreans know masturbation??? Welcome the the world’s single largest porn-consuming nation. In spite of their conservative bullshit and their “we don’t even have sex” nonsense, this is one country where everyone watches porn (with blurred genitals) and every guy cheats on his wife at the local “barber shops” (which are where you go for hand-jobs.

        Korea is a dirty, dirty place with terrible porn.

  6. Thomas Wood says:

    I hope you’re writing all of these suggestions down for TNB 4.0

  7. Man, I can barely handle TNB 3.0!

  8. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    You write some seriously weird shit, David.
    Seriously weird.

  9. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    That was not a criticism.
    I like weird.

  10. Slim says:

    Here’s my hope for world salvation. We’ve all heard stories about the Beatles and their circle jerks. What if we had a planetary circle jerk, I mean, a moment of global masturbation whereby each person sticks his/her hand down the pants of the person on his/her left (or right, maybe we should go with the spin of the planet, although Venus, the goddess of love, is the only planet to spin clockwise) and flagellates until the entire planet sighs in one simulatneous global orgasm and suddenly, SUDDENLY, war ends, the hungry have food on the table, the sick are healed, and for one solitary moment everyone, I mean EVERYONE is happy and satisfied. Hands would be too busy to pick up a gun, rob thy neighbor, jimmy the stock market, blow up the marketplace, drive the vehicle (no more greenhouse gases!), smash the state, hell, there might not even be a need for a state any more.

  11. Marni Grossman says:

    This is sort of upsetting, David. I thought my method of masturbating was unique. Like a snowflake. You’re telling me I’m not a snowflake?

  12. Will says:

    I am from central Ohio also. This needs some more study Would love to study the ladies.

  13. George "Grumpy Bachelor" Breithaupt says:

    Bro’,,m I always suspected you were hiding under the bed!

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