At this very moment, there is a public masturbation booth in New York City. It's called GuyFi, and it holds a laptop and a chair, enclosed by a curtain. It was set up as a publicity stunt by a sex toy company. Which, sure, that seems like the sort of thing a sex toy company was eventually going to do. What fascinated me, however, was that in its press materials for their fake masturbation booth, the company claimed that 40 percent of men in New York masturbate at work.
Reading that figure blew my mind. Until that very moment, it had never even occurred to me that people might actually get off while on the clock, let alone actually do it myself. Call me a prude, but the workplace had just never struck me as a place you could "do that" and get away with it.
So, like any respectable journalist, I asked the internet to come forward with their stories of workplace phallus-flogging and bean-flicking, half-expecting not a single soul to come forward. Instead, something like 30 or 40 people readily volunteered their tales of adding some artisanal caulk onto the tiles of the employee bathroom.
It seems that for the most part, those who've masturbated at work didn't necessarily view it as all that abnormal. One woman told me she felt justified in her office masturbation habits after watching Matthew McCaughnahey, playing a wild-eyed stockbroker in The Wolf of Wall Street, claim he masturbated daily after lunch.
"I do it all the time," said Josh, a guy in his 20s who works at an office. "I've just always used it as a method to calm down and relieve stress during the middle of the workday occasionally."
Others echoed Josh's sentiment. Someone who we'll call Brad told me, "Back when I worked a true 9-5 at a law firm I would look for any reason to escape to the bathroom for 15 minutes to get a break from filing papers. Jerking off is a really good way to spend 15 minutes, and sometimes it ended up being the highlight of my day."
A guy we'll call Charles told me he masturbated in the bathroom of his temp job to stave off boredom. "I would finish [my work] hours faster than my supervisor would anticipate, and then I'd just wait around while they tried to think up some other tasks for me. I viewed it sort of like a lunch break, or smoke break."
People's reasons for masturbating at their jobs ranged from the utilitarian—as a last-ditch hangover cure, as a stress-reliever, or a way to break their day up—to the erotic, with a few people saying they got a thrill from breaking the taboo of being sexual at work. For a guy we'll call Edward, it was both. "I think I'm more productive after I cum, or at least less distracted," he told me, adding, "I actually do find it sexual, but maybe that's because I've always felt like men's rooms are erotically charged spaces. The fear-of-getting-caught thing is also a total turn-on."
Peter, who frequently pounded off while he worked at a body shop, made it seem like the fear of getting caught during a work-jerk turned you into Bear Grylls. "In the middle of it, your senses are heightened. Your hearing is perfect so you know when a door is starting to open. Your vision is crystal clear. It's like you're on the defensive as much as you're horny."
Many people told me they felt that the activity should be destigmatized. "I don't think jacking off is any worse or better than taking a shit," said a guy we'll call Tony, who masturbated at multiple jobs while he was in high school. "It's arguably better, because it doesn't smell." Tony told me he'd masturbated while working the scoreboard at a community softball game, while he was supposed to be watching over an outdoor ice skating rink, and once during a shift at Taco Bell.
"I'm certain that teenagers are jerking off at their jobs all the time," says a man we'll call John. "I'm mainly certain because I did it." John worked as a busboy at a yacht club, and would engage in what he called "three to five minutes of intense, intentional masturbation" while he was getting napkins from the storage room. "It wasn't like I was trying to sabotage anyone's meal," he told me, "but thinking back, I'm not sure if I'd actually wash my hands afterwards."
However, a woman we'll call Jenny who's masturbated at her office as an "act of rebellion" warned that those who do it to silently resist their job or alleviate boredom might want to think twice before engaging in hand to gland combat at work. "Not because of morals or propriety or whatever," she clarified, "but because masturbation isn't something you want to do hastily at the same place you hate going to every day."
Timothy Faust, a VICE contributor and indie wrestling general manager in Austin, Texas, heard I was writing about workplace masturbation and emailed me to argue that the act could potentially "sexualize a shared space in a way that others may not appreciate." He explained, "J'ing O in the workplace breaks an unspoken social contract: that the bathroom is all yours to dump your sorrows away. In the era of the open office plan, the bathroom stall is the only truly private space. It is an important place."
Perhaps workplace masturbation should be treated as less of a taboo or more of a benign activity that people engage in sometimes. "I'm not sure if I got this from a talking head on MSNBC or if I'm paraphrasing something Jack Bauer said in the least season of 24 in response to the idea that intelligence officers should be able to torture to protect the country," said a guy we'll call Mark, "but I'm going to do whatever I have to do in order to get through my workday, but that doesn't mean what I'm gonna do isn't nasty as hell."
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