We can all use a hand from time to time.
In the course of writing this article I have made five false starts, checked Twitter eight times, refreshed my email four times, texted plans with two friends and IMmed a third, four times run out for coffee, and masturbated—twice. All of these things are forms of procrastination, but only one is a form of procrasturbation.
Procrasturbation, the top Urban Dictionary entry says, is "procrastination by masturbating!" Somewhat more abstruse is an article in Psychology Today that says it's "delaying the performance of a task feels so good, it results in... euphoria," a definition that leads me to wonder if its writer has ever properly jerked off. In April of 2013, Jon Stewart suggested that it's "Using masturbation to otherwise occupy yourself while pressing matters await."
It may seem like simply putting off until later when you can pet the kitty right now, but procrasturbation is so much more than that. It's replacing torment—or at least tedium—with pleasure, and as its name suggests, it's slightly obnoxious. Procrasturbation is a juvenile act in an adult world. It's scrawling physical graffiti on the walls of corporate America, written in ink that can only be read with Luminol. Most germane, procrasturbation is something you and I and everyone we know learned when we were adolescents.
Like you, I was once a tween with all the time in the world. My adolescence was fairly awful; some of it was particular to me, but much was not. Being an adolescent is uncanny and difficult—it's traversing a new landscape in an ever-changing body that's shooting out hairs and hormones, and it's trying to establish your maturity as you tussle with the lingering grasp of childhood. It's acne, and it's anger. It's menstruation, and it's confusion. It's unexpected boners, and it's alienation. Adolescence is pretty horrible, all things being equal—and, really, when are they?
The one great saving grace of that age is masturbation. Orgasms cure a lot of ills, 11-year-old me learned as I read my parents' copies of Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden and The Hite Report ; these two seminal 70s books taught me how to touch myself. Busy as I am now, squeezing out harried orgasms at the end of long day of writing and binge-watching Arrow on Netflix, I think of those halcyon times when I was a tween and had fat swathes masturbatory of time.
Learning to masturbate turns your teen body from a torture device into a playland, but it also demarcates your body as your own. Masturbation is fun because you do it in secret, like sneaking cigarettes or cutting classes, and you do it because it's the best way to show you're your own person. It's the first way humans make pleasure into a political act—but it's not the last.
At 12, I thought adult life would be the end of boredom, of tedium, and of supervision. I could not imagine cubicles, deadlines, micromanaging mid-level corporate executives, and listicles. As an adult, however, I now have reconciled myself to the fact that in some ways I will never leave adolescence behind, and one of those ways is masturbation. Specifically, it's procrasturbation, an act only made feasible by today's technology.
I work from home, as does a sizable chunk of the populace—somewhere between 2.5 and 30 percent of workers do business from home at least one day a week, depending on which stats you look at. Add students to that group and the number of potential procrasturbators rises higher. High-speed internet allows for telecommuting, but it also allows you to read this piece, and this piece has made you consider touching yourself. Don't lie.
Although it allows us to work stronger, faster, and better than before, the internet was also made for porn, and porn was made for masturbation. Humans are wily, pleasure-seeking animals. Some of us will delay gratification to get two marshmallows later, but most of us will pounce on that one marshmallow now. It's a short step from working to wanking when your browser autocompletes "Y" to "YouPorn."
Smartphones shorten this distance. Let us, for a moment, remove the physical act of stroking, rubbing, or caressing from the masturbatory equation. Let us consider just erotic musings as an act of procrasturbation. How many of us have not paused in the midst of a task to Tindr, Grindr, or 3rdnr? How many have us have not perused the Instagram stream of our current thirst trap like the hard-up thirst-raptors we are? All I'm saying is let she who has not sexted on company time cast the first stone.
The possibility of procrasturbation shows how blurred our divisions between work and leisure have become. If your company email is loaded on your smartphone, you never really leave work. Technology has corroded the barrier between work and private life and erased the 8-8-8 split of work, leisure, and sleep time. While we may live in a land where Big Brother is watching, we also live in a world where our bosses have replaced our parents. In that context I'd argue that procrasturbation is more than just a time waster. It's both a site of pleasure and a site of resistance. In Marxist terms, when we're alienated from our own labor—and who isn't?—masturbation on the clock is a political act. It is taking back our sold time and making it our own; it is reclaiming that elision between worker and individual in the most primal, most pleasurable way possible.
Like geological layers studded with fossils and wrecks of past civilizations, adults carry within them the vestiges of their former selves. We don't always know it; we can't always see it, but our history is there. That 11- or 12-year-old who slinks off to his or her bedroom with a pump container of lotion and a copy of Penthouse may be hidden but he or she is not gone. Just as self-pleasure defined your tween identity as your own, separate from your parents or your family or your faith or your school, so too does procrasturbation stake out territory as your own. For those sweet minutes of flights of fancy and fapping, you are not your job. You are not your obligations. You are not your resentment, your listicle, your dirty laundry, or your tedium. You are 12 and you are free.
Do it now as you did it then. But now—as then—try not to get caught.
Chelsea G. Summers writes for Adult Magazine and many other publications. Follow her on Twitter.