The ‘M’ word comes in handy

With most of us stuck at home this Easter and more than likely to take ourselves in hand to relieve boredom if nothing else, we’ve dusted off an old essay by The Bug’s sex expert Doctor Dick who took a very personal look at the pleasures and pitfalls of being an owner/operator.


Self-abuse as a form of sexual gratification is beginning to hold its own again. The reasons vary: the spread of AIDS, the threat of incurable venereal diseases such as herpes, and – for women – the fact that it doesn’t involve a man.

No bad breath, no bulbous, quivering beer belly, no lies, no embarrassment during the fumbles of foreplay and no pain during the actual few seconds of coitus.

Research shows that in both sexes, few people have hang-ups as they resume the habits of adolescence – and you’ve got to hand it to them for that.

photo-1503758478129-c2cb56b6b64aIt’s a shame, though, that even in this enlightened age, lingering taboos still cast a shadow over these quite natural habits for some people.

Even in 2020 (okay, we updated that!) the term “self-abuse” still manages to linger longer than a wet spot in winter to denote wrongdoing.

I remember as a young lad, the dire warnings that doing the M word would lead to all sorts of mayhem, malformations and medical mishaps.

I was told that I would go blind, deaf – or both – that hair would grow on the offending palm and even a ridiculous rumour that M-ing myself too much would turn me into a losy speler.

Where do these absurd elderly-married-women’s tales spring from?

I scoff now, but in those seedy days of adolescence it was difficult to dispel the prospects of impending doom every time I felt like making love to the only person  who ever really cared about me.

In fact, for some time, I refused to take to myself seriously.

But my right fist – Suzanne – eventually seduced me. Most nights she would just lie there by my side – tempting me. Mocking me every now and then by curling her fingers to form what I imagined a real live vagina looked like.

“Hang on,” I said one night, ” let’s not rush into things.

“What say we just go out together for a while and see how things work out?”

So we went to the movies and school dances. Other nights we just moped around the house and chatted. We worked on balsa model planes together.

We became inseparable. Where I went, Suzanne went. And then one night, we just went all the way.

We were alone, obviously. And for some time I’d been thinking to myself: “If God didn’t want boys to do this, he wouldn’t have created the human body so that the hand always rests near the genital area.”

How many young boys would M if we only had toes, I rationalised to my fist one winter’s night when she was taunting and teasing me just a little too much.

On the big night she seemed to be asking for it.

We were both nervous and my palm was sweaty. My parents were asleep and I guess I decided that going blind/deaf wasn’t life’s greatest handicap after all. Hair on any part of my body – even on a palm – was becoming a bit of an obsession anyway.

We were clumsy lovers at first, but in the following weeks we eventually got the hang of it.

Our loving became a nightly ritual of going to bed strictly at 8.30 pm, waiting 15 minutes until my parents were glued to their 21-inch AWA black-and-white TV set, and then nonchalantly opening my bedroom door, crossing the hallway to the bathroom on the pretence of a forgotten wee, then closing the door while I daubed some of my old man’s Palmolive shaving cream onto my loving partner. Then, back to bed for some exhilarating lovemaking.

Even now I can’t walk past those little green tubes in the toiletries section of a supermarket without getting a doughie.

Yet, like a lot of young lovers, we parted company as abruptly as we had come together – unexpectedly and with many harsh words.

The end came the night my mother entered my room without warning. I thought I acted off my feet pretty well, flicking my sheet over my body as the hallway light flooded my room.

“You okay dear?” she asked innocently, sniffing the air with its strange blend of sweat and Palmolive shave cream.

“Just pulling my ….. air rifle through,” I replied from around the raised sheet as calmly as possible for a boy in vinegar-stroke interruptus.

“You bloody idiot,” I rebuked Suzanne as soon as mum left.

They say you always hurt the one you love.

“Are you bloody deaf?” I yelled. “Why didn’t you hear her coming in?”

We lay apart, brooding. I decided on the spot to make a clean fist of the inevitable break-up. Besides, with my new extra-strength spectacles I had begun to look at my lover through different eyes. For starters, she looked a lot hairier than I cared to remember.

“We’re through,” I whispered hoarsely, “starting tomorrow morning.”

I guess it’s all part of growing up, but I quickly began seeing a girl called Amanda, who was the exact opposite of my first love. Not in looks, admittedly, apart from the thumb being on the other side. But the relationship was much more relaxed and natural.

I guess I was experiencing the change from a puppy-love infatuation to a deep, sensual love that has lasted to this very day.

Of course, the tension between Suzanne and my new love meant there was hell to pay for months.

Although the two eventually settled their differences, Suzanne at first refused steadfastly to have anything to do with Amanda.

I couldn’t get my hands close enough together to strike a match the very day I went for a coveted cub den badge for camping skills, or to blow my nose properly the entire winter.

Worst of all, the arm’s length stand-off got to such a stage that I was eventually dropped from my school cricket team for missing several relatively simple chances at slip.