Joycelyn Elders

How Masturbation Month Originated

Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

We all owe a big thank you to Joycelyn Elders, the Surgeon General under the Clinton administration. This was a woman ahead of her time. In 1994, this amazing, highly educated, progressive-minded Surgeon General was asked if masturbation had the potential to discourage early sexual activity. She had the sex-positive thinking to boldly reply: “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” Just like that, the career of the first black woman Surgeon General was over. Ouch. She was crucified for suggesting we include masturbation information in sex ed classes, even with the purpose of discouraging early sexual activity.

The staff at the San Francisco based sex toy and education company “Good Vibrations” were outraged and decided to find a way to keep the focus on Ms. Elders’ unfair treatment. National Masturbation Month was born! Good Vibrations recognized the need for bringing discussion of masturbation into the mainstream media (much to the horror of the sexually repressed), and providing support, encouragement and information. Huge thumbs up to Good Vibrations.

The first National Masturbation Month was celebrated in May of 1995. Why did Good Vibrations choose May? Reportedly, because of the “merry, merry month of May”, long celebrated for sexual awakening…and they couldn’t resist the added alliterative bonus.

Joycelyn Elders, I hope that seeing the movement towards more public discourse about and acceptance of masturbation brings you some small sense of satisfaction for the horrible injustice done to you. People were not ready for your sensible sex-positive message. More than 15 years later, many of them still are not ready. But we are moving in the right direction! There are more and more open conversations about masturbation. Just the other day, Planned Parenthood gave the nod to Masturbation Month! Can't say I saw that coming.

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