I cannot muster the emotional energy to take issue with most things, let alone cloying holidays like Valentine’s Day. The concept, like that of pink-wrapped Reese’s or pitches from publicists about vaginal rejuvenation, is so aggressively boring to me that even writing this sentence has driven me to clean my room as a distraction. But don’t get it twisted: I am happy for people who are happy about V-Day prix fixes with husbands or girlfriends or Grindr dates, in the same way I’m happy for people who are happy about sloth trivia or the MoonPie’s Twitter account. Anything that offers people meaning, or splurts of joy, during these bleak times is valid and important. It’s why I spend twenty hours a week watching videos of Chihuahuas getting baths! But I am inviting people to have a little more imagination because I think we can do better on a day so mercilessly branded and mediated that its full potential has been obscured. And sometimes imagining more freely requires seeing something so routine yet so unspoken in a new, rose-colored light: I’m talking about masturbation.
Most people agree that masturbation is pretty chill, if not dope. For example, if I did a man-on-the-street segment today, most people outside the Union Square TGI Fridays would lean into my microphone and say, “Yeah, I like it.” Masturbating is one of the most precious ways to allow time for yourself and no one else, to experience delight, to find glowy relief from the dull pressures of existing. I’m not saying this in an “exercise is YOU time!” sort of way—though I’ve heard great things about exercise, and it’s on my list of things to check out. But I’m proposing something grander for this overwrought holiday: something that will invigorate your body and spirit without requiring you to stand or make conversation. (If “wellness” is your scene, re-educate yourself on the reported health benefits of self-pleasuring, from warding off cervical infections to decreasing chances of prostate cancer.) The act and aftermath of self-pleasuring achieves the sort of romance, exhilaration, and satisfaction that the most egregiously truffle-filled V-day dinner could even hope to achieve.
“But masturbating isn’t romantic! The way I do it is sick!” I don’t care how gross you masturbate; you can make it nice. Light a candle. Vacuum up the dog hairs. Throw out that old yogurt container or, at the very least, hide it. Blast Frank Ocean, though not the tracks that make you weep, or maybe just those tracks, if you’re into that. Stripped of all the garbage and Snapchat filters and reductive comments people make about consumerism, Valentine’s Day is empty, just your average day in the worst month of the year (don’t @ me), but it could be beautiful if we make it so. If we put ourselves—our genitalia—at the very center of it.
Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator and founder of Le Wand (a vibrator that makes a super-hot Valentine’s Day date, in my opinion), says that masturbating is “an awesome way to treat yourself” on the holiday, and offers a few suggestions for making holiday masturbation even more sensual. Because how often do we make excuses to be more sensual with ourselves? Let’s let Valentine’s Day be that arbitrary excuse.
“A great way to intensify orgasms and allow yourself to really get into the experience is to take it slow,” she says. “Start off slow and gradually intensify the experience as you get closer and closer to climax. Sure, often, you may want to go quickly and get from point A to point B in the most convenient way you know how. Sometimes, though, allowing yourself the time to explore can help build momentum and lead you to indulge in a whole different range of sensations.”
In addition to incorporating toys, you may also want to incorporate another hand. “It's easy to think that you only need one hand to do the trick, and you might,” she says. “But two hands just might do the trick better. For example, if one hand is stimulating your clitoris, try caressing your skin in other places. Treat yourself like you'd want to be treated in bed, and you might be surprised by the different paths to stimulation that you discover.” If masturbation is a source of stress or anxiety—or you find it difficult or impossible to orgasm—you can still treat yourself to the gift of self-touch. I promise it will bring you more joy than even the campiest box of CVS chocolates.
Researching this piece, I asked several of my friends if they planned on masturbating on Valentine’s Day. (Knowing me isn’t always “fun.”) The most common response I received was: Yes, because I masturbate most days. “I would imagine so, though I have no specific plans,” a female friend in a relationship told me. “Honestly, I tend to think masturbation is over glorified. It is fine, but I would usually rather watch TV or eat yogurt.” Another woman responded, “Heck yes! But I masturbate every day, so Valentine’s Day is no different.”
A male friend told me something that gave me pause. “I guess I don't ‘plan’ to masturbate in any situation, I just make the decision before I go to bed if I feel like it or not,” he said. “I'm hoping I’ll have a date for Valentine's Day who will take the decision out of my hands (PUN VERY INTENDED) but if it doesn't work out, then I'll use my typical decision-making process and most likely end up cranking one out.”
I reject the notion of cranking one out as a back-up plan. On February 14, let’s make it the plan. That, at least, is what I plan to do: Stay indoors, talk to as few people as possible, and romance myself.