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'Sticky: A (Self) Love Story' Is The Pro-Masturbation Doc We've Been Wet-Dreaming Of: BUST Interview

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What do hairy palms, blindness and erectile dysfunction have in common? They are all things the kid down the street told you are caused by masturbation. Nicholas Tana and the people behind the year’s most forthcoming documentary, Sticky: A (Self) Love Story, out in the U.S. now, want you to know these are all bold faced lies. This film explores the truth behind the act of solo sex, how it is represented in media and asks the question: if we all do it, why are we so afraid to talk about it?

In a nation where 98 percent of males and 89 percent of females say they masturbate, self-love stations called “GuyFi booths” (men only, *Liz Lemon Eye Roll*) are popping up in NYC and vibrators can double as necklaces—you have to wonder, where do these incredibly mixed emotions come from? 

In media, masturbation is usually used as a punchline and nothing more. Sticky walks a fine line between acknowledging the humor of masturbation and discussing the outright cultural shame surrounding such a common and natural act. “I started to read between the lines about what that laughter was all about and it was sort of nervous laughter. And then I realized wow, the reason why masturbation is fodder for such comedy is because we are vulnerable around it,” Tana told BUST.

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Buffy Masturbate

The project took nearly a decade to make and began as an idea for a mockumentary (they were still really big in 2007, Tana assured me), but it quickly became apparent this topic with some serious cultural shade being thrown its way. “People treat it like a joke and they don’t take it seriously, but there really was this irony and this love-hate around our own sexuality which it’s such a fundamental aspect of it that I wanted to explore for real,” said Tana. 

The jokes in TV and movies play off fear, shame, or guilt people have surrounding masturbation. Few shows acknowledge masturbation as something that we all do. The film cites Seinfeld (the episode where they make a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating) and There's Something About Mary (the hair gel/jizz mix up) and several other movies and shows as ways media handles masturbation. However, no piece of media has quite nailed it. In some ways the conversation itself is a good way to ease the mass discomfort, but according to Tana, “how we talk about it is important and to normalize something like masturbation still has we still have some work to do to be able to do that.”

Bill Nye the Science guy

Experts from all angles were consulted — religious figures,  therapists, sex educators, performers, porn stars, the former surgeon general and Betty Dodson, the grandmother of masturbation herself — to talk about why people should or should not be jerking off. It’s clear that there is no common ground when it comes to masturbating. The pressure and shame and embarrassment fuels the cultural distaste discussing masturbation. Cultural side-eye at masturbation is something that has developed over time. The history of masturbation and pleasure aids is discussed as a way to see where all of the self-love hate may have stemmed from. Women used to go to the doctor for “hysteria,” which seems to me like extreme horniness, and their doctor would jerk them off (it was through this idea that the vibrator was born.)

Vibrator gif


The U.S. has had a sticky history with touching ourselves or shaming people for touching themselves. In 1991, Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman) was caught choking the chicken in a porn theater. The arrest led to CBS canceling Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse, which was running in syndication, and stores took his toys off the shelf. Despite fans and colleagues alike vouching for his character, Rubens was ridiculed for his masturbation, clearly reflection the national sentiment shaming masturbators.  Tana points out in Sticky that the arrest happened four days after Jeffery Dahmer was finally arrested: "I’m sure it came out in the media that Jeffrey Dahmer, this mysterious mad man’s, first offense was masturbating in public." These subsequent events heightened the irrational fear around sexuality and self-pleasure—despite that fact that the majority of the population reports that they have masturbated at least once in their life.

 Pee Wee Herman

The documentary is not only engrossing in its thorough research, it is also wildly entertaining and thought-provoking. Masturbation has been a part of most of our lives for as long as we can remember, yet we were always told to keep it under the covers, behind closed doors. No one talks about it or acknowledges the importance of removing the shame. There is a not-so-radical idea proposed in the documentary that students be taught about masturbation, what it means and most of all that it is normal. This would lessen the bullying and general idea that masturbating is a weird or gross act. A sex-positive and non-judgmental sex education system could radically change the world—but for now it would be great if there was at least an honest definition of masturbation in textbooks.

The To Do List

Whether you know it or not, there is a fight happening to create a culture that isn’t afraid of sexuality, in all its forms. A culture that understands masturbating is a normal sexual act that shouldn’t be villainized in the media. Sticky is an in-depth look at something no one seems to be comfortable discussing without a laugh track to back it up and I think it’s about time someone did. 

JGL SBL


Sticky: A (Self) Love Story is out in the U.S. now.
 

 

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A Dicture Is Worth A Thousand Wangs: Dick Pics With Style Maggie is a slightly visually impaired bookworm and consuer of fine Ranch Dressings. Her hobbies include looking at pictures of puppies on instagram and squealing, rewatching episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and perfecting her scarily accurate impression of a chicken. See what she is musing about at @maggiesmusingz

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