• The Lonely Issue

    Cum Before the Anxiety Sets In

    The Lonely Issue
    Lenasolow jennymarks

    Illustration by Jenny Marks

    Cum Before the Anxiety Sets In

    Masturbating doesn’t always feel like fireworks. Sometimes we do it just so we can sleep.

    My phone buzzes and I take a deep breath before checking it. These days, a text notification is more often than not an update on some sort of crisis. This time though, it’s my friend asking, “Is it normal for my anti-depressants to make it really hard to cum?” I tell them, yes, and rattle off a list of recommendations: strong vibrator, wand style, lots of surface area, spring for rechargeable if you can, porn can help you stay focused, don’t freak out if it takes longer than usual.

    I want to say: let’s organize all the other sad people and march to the offices of the SSRI manufacturers and tell them it’s bullshit that the price you pay for feeling slightly less like killing yourself is feeling a lot less like fucking yourself.



    I want to say: honestly, how can anyone jerk off these days? Is it normal for my rapist president to make it really hard to cum? I’m not on SSRI’s but that’s how I’m cumming these days too – big vibe, don’t think too much. Cum so you can go to sleep. Cum because your friend flaked again. Cum to relax before you visit your partner in the psych ward.

    I used to sell sex toys for a living, now I write a sex and relationships advice column. These worlds that focus on pleasure and joy in sex are essential, but they can also be unnervingly positive. Bizarrely, language around sex-positivity can make you feel guilty or ashamed or like you’re doing sex wrong. If a sex-negative culture says everyone who wants to put something in their pussy is a slut, sex-positivity can run dangerously close to saying that everyone who doesn’t want to put something in their pussy is repressed.

    Even the way we talk about masturbation can be prescriptive. I’ve often felt guilty that I’m not always exploring new ways of having orgasms or able to teach my partner some new thing I learned during a jerk off session. I remember when some girls in middle school were shocked that I’d *gasp* never masturbated! It should have been a moment of affirmation, but it felt like just another way to fail at being a cool girl. Because I’m in this line of work, people assume I must be rolling in mindblowing orgasms, but the truth is I, like most lonely New Yorkers, am just trying to cum before the anxiety sets in.

    And listen, mazel tov if jerking off has brought you everything you needed to know about your body and how you want to fuck. I’ll never stop giving people advice about vibrators and buying people sex toys and encouraging people to fuck themselves with abandon. But no matter how much people say you have to love yourself first, I’ve learned the most about my body from other people – a partner who told me we could prioritize my orgasms, another who did more for my pelvic pain than months in physical therapy. I own dozens of sex toys and none of them made me feel as alive and powerful as choosing to get bruised by a beautiful woman.

    I’m not saying that masturbation just doesn’t matter – in fact, I think it matters in a utilitarian way that is actually essential. I’m a big fan of utilitarian self care. Self care doesn’t always look like a lavender-scented bath with rose petals, sometimes it looks like taking a shower for the first time in a week. It’s great if jerking off feels like fireworks but it’s also great if you cum so you can sleep. Cum because you know you need the endorphins. Cum so you don’t text your ex. Cum to stop looking at your phone. Cum if you feel like it, don’t cum if you don’t. Text your friends for vibrator recs, then storm the SSRI company’s building. When it comes to cumming alone, I’m not usually looking for anything fancy or new, but if I get a moment of respite from the crisis on my phone and in my head and in the world, that is enough.

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