So I was wondering a few weeks ago why masturbating in play spaces is so very badly regarded.

I was wondering partly from a very selfish perspective. Kink turns me on. I don’t mean that on some abstract intellectual level – I mean Artemis screams and the blood flow changes direction. It’s as distinct and unmistakeable as a blow. They scream, I get hard. Inevitably, then, if I’m playing, I’m aroused, and generally I’d like to do something about that. But that’s a minor thing. I’m a grown-up, I can handle waiting for an orgasm.

The real meat of the matter was this: why is masturbating over other people’s play so frowned upon?

In part, it’s a matter of consent. In choosing to play with person X in public, I have consented to person Y watching me play, but not to person Y joining in. In masturbating they take a step out of the pure “audience” role and into being a participant, however peripherally. But we deal with the audience problem with a tacit understanding that to play in public is to consent to being watched. There’s no reason that social contract can’t include masturbation. It’s not written in the stars. We choose to draw the line where we do.

But the reason I’ve heard most often is that the men who come into play spaces and wank are taking from the community and not giving anything back. And something rang false about that, so I posed a theoretical: what if I, a female-bodied person, wank over a scene? Am I giving nothing back?

It seems different to me. If I’m masturbating in public, then I am giving people the chance to watch me. I go from an audience member, to part of the show for all the rest of the audience. I put myself on display, because I am female-bodied and everyone knows that women are for looking at.

Men look. Women are looked at. Men who wank in public are voyeurs; women who wank in public are exhibitionists.

It’s the Two Rules of Desire. It’s the same old double standard that gets everywhere and taints everything. And it’s completely false. I like to look at male-bodied people, men and otherwise. I think cocks are beautiful. I think someone with their penis in their hand is hot, and I’d be watching them as surely as they were watching me.

What the wanky boys are giving back to the community is their own bodies on display. If we don’t think that counts, we need to think harder.

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