Does one-handed reading (or film-watching, or eavesdropping) count as masturbation, or do the stories or films or orgasmic sounds coming through the walls get credit as supporting characters? For that matter, is it really masturbation if it’s consciously done while someone is watching? Does it matter?
No, probably not. Fantasizing is a handy tool for masturbation, and stories, films, etc are fuel for fantasies, whether for solo scenes or pairs play. Masturbation is whatever you mean when you talk about masturbation, or at least think about it, because who talks much about that? Except, of course, erotica writers. And even we don’t talk about it as much as we write about it, which raises another question: is writing particularly steamy scenes that push your own buttons a form of masturbation? Or at least a prelude to the physical act?
You don’t have to answer that. And neither do I. But I’m sure I’m not the only writer who fantasizes about writing sex scenes during sex, as well as fantasizing about sex while writing sex scenes. There’s an extra oomph when just the right and new and intense descriptive phrase surges through your fantasizing mind. My own mind, anyway.
And now having brought the subject around to my own mind, I’ll confess that although I personally think of masturbation as a profoundly private pastime, in my writing I’ve tended to include a voyeur who is very nearly a participant in such scenes, so that I’m not at all sure whether the protagonist can strictly be said to be masturbating.
It’s getting hard to remember which stories have already provided excerpts. I thought of sharing “On Wheels”, my first story in an edition of Best Lesbian Erotica, seventeen years ago in BLE 1999. It was badly in need of editing, which it got, but probably in need of more from my perspective now as editor of the upcoming twentieth anniversary edition of that series. It turns out, though, that my file for that story is so old that I can’t open it on my current computer, and I don’t have time to pursue the matter, so I’ll just mention the details in passing. The setting is a mountain cabin in the midst of a snowstorm. The characters are a young woman confined to a high-tech wheelchair after a criminal assault that traumatized her, and the tall, Nordic woman who is her companion/caretaker/bodyguard. The injured woman can’t stand to be touched, so her companion, the narrator, more or less seduces her with an intense masturbation scene interspersed with quotations from The Song of Songs, aka The Song of Solomon from the Old Testament. This is one case where I wonder whether sex clearly involving two people can really be called masturbation.
Another story in this category is one I’ve shared before, “Freeing the Demon”, from Kristina Wright’s Dream Lover (reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica) in which a downtrodden call girl masturbates in view of a rooftop gargoyle in which a demon has been imprisoned. By the end of that scene the gargoyle has broken free enough to actively participate, if only briefly, but even before that he is definitely influencing the activities. Is this really masturbation?
From "Freeing the Demon"
When Jayne finally climbed out onto the balcony she was wrapped in a deeply hooded raincoat. She knew the allure of mystery, and slow unveiling; she also knew all previous experience might be irrelevant. Could her demon be pleased like human men? Until she knew his pleasure, she would simply please herself.
The light from his depths glowed hotter than ever before. In anticipation of her coming? Or had he gained strength from devouring Leopold? A shiver of fear sharpened her excitement.
She pressed herself against the rain-slick stone and inched the raincoat open. Chill gave way to warmth wherever skin touched stone, and when she stretched upward from the balustrade a deep vibration pulsed through the rigid mass. She pressed closer, bruising her softness on his ridges, melding pain with pleasure, but when she sensed desperation in his trembling she loosened her grip and stepped down.
Jayne knew the art of pleasing watchers. They had been her only bearable customers. In any closer interaction it was she who would become the watcher, removed, unmoved, observing with vague repulsion what her other self must do.
She wondered whether he could see her, but when she raised the edges of the coat like dark wings the light beamed obliquely from his eyes to warm the pale flame of her body.
The coat, once released. did not fall but floated above and behind, supported by the light. She forgot the rain, forgot everything but herself and that burning presence, feeding on his hunger as it fed on hers.
Beginning with dance-like movements, slowly, sinuously, Jayne curved her hands from waist to hips, slimness to taut fullness. Her touch was the watcher's touch, but under her command.
Then she drew her fingers lightly upward, brushing them teasingly around the outer curves of her breasts, catching her breath at the sweet soreness. As she cupped them gently and then less gently the fullness, the firmness, grew; in her mind her outline transformed from slender to voluptuous.
The ripples of pleasure intensified. Urgency flowed down her body. She throbbed both with fullness and with an aching need to be filled.
Jayne thought fleetingly of pulling back. How could she bear it if this hot tide never flooded into release? But it was all she had to give. And besides, it was too late.
Hard nipples jutted from her round full breasts, yearning desperately for the stroke of hands that could not reach out, for the hot press and tug and bite of a mouth frozen in stillness. Her fingers teased their tips into greater, harder, unbearable tension, while her palms still cupped the swelling fullness. She thrust against her own hands and moaned, again and again, until a deeper echo sounded from the stone before her and she raised her eyes.
Red light pulsed from the depths. A low rumbling sound went on and on. How could she truly touch him, penetrate the shell of dark magic, bring his torment and hers to an ecstatic peak?
She had come to despise men's bodies, but now she cursed the spell, or sculptor, that had shaped the gargoyle, pressing the forelegs together to obscure the loins, leaving her without even a simulacrum of maleness to stroke, taste, press against.
Her hands slipped downward. Her breasts still yearned with fullness, but a hunger still more intense built in her depths, a pounding pressure that demanded a harder pressure in return, more, and more...
Detachment long gone, she could only open mind as well as flesh to him, projecting her own sensations, hoping for him to somehow tell her how to meet his need.
His vision of her flashed through her mind; eyes half-closed, lips full and parted, head twisting from side to side as damp, heavy hair coiled over her shoulders and slid across her thrusting nipples, rising and falling to the ragged rhythm of her breathing. It was his will that raised her hand to cradle and press one breast and then the other, gently at first, then harder, sending hot lances downward. She no longer knew which sobbing cries and moans were her own, and which reverberated from the stone.
Somewhere in the outer world there were sounds. Pounding on a door? Or her own blood pounding in her ears? The clamor of her body drowned any intrusion. Linked with this being who watched and shared and demanded, she moved in response to his will as well as her own, hips twisting, undulating, arching toward him, hands stroking and kneading and tantalizing but leaving the hot, pulsing void for him, for his filling, if only he would come to her, into her...
A sharp crack split the air. The balcony shook. A wave of force slammed her against the building, jarring her teeth into her lower lip until it bled. She force down pain-sparked anger; whatever she had incited she would willingly accept.
Pretty close to not being, technically, masturbation, right? Except, possibly, for the author. I can’t say for sure that writing that turns its writer on will turn on readers better than writing that’s more detached, but really, wouldn’t researching that question be fun?