Masturbation feels really good. It also can feel really icky, when conditioned feelings of guilt wash over the masturbator as he or she comes down from a post-orgasmic high. That shame may or not be rooted in religion, but it is certainly grounded in the idea that the fundamental sexual unit should always be more than one person. The persistence of that shame serves as a reminder that our culture war isn’t just about who we have sex with, but about why we have it in the first place. Is sex solely about connecting with one other person in intimate relationship, or is it about delighting in something that first and foremost, belongs to us as individuals?
I’d hazard the following ill-advised answer to that question: both, as a matter of pure realism (as that fantastic French video explains). But if sex is never attached to relationship, if it is merely an act rather than an interaction, it will wither eventually in ways not true of all solitary pleasures, and miss something essential about sex. As Malcolm Muggeridge once said in defense of lust: it’s all give-give-give. It suffers in some profound way when there is no one else to give it to.