Published in Sister Magazine’s ‘SEX’ issue, S/S 2015
Since music began, it has dedicated itself to the pursuit of getting its players laid. I’m not saying that the musical greats of the world weren’t also trying to voice something profound about the human condition – but let’s face it, you pretty much have to assume that the first caveperson who thought to rhythmically bang rocks together was doing it to entice some hairy babe across the fireside. The question is, what happens when you can’t find somebody to love, and are compelled to take on the job yourself? For all the frisky narcissists out there (and I know you’re out there), here is my run down of pop songs on the theme of the greatest romance of all – sex with someone you really love.
Masturbation is generally viewed in popular culture as a base note within the overall stink of adolescence, in the domain of gawky teenage boys and American Pie-type penis shenanigans. This stereotype is proved to be absolutely on point in our first hit: Orgasm Addict, by the Buzzcocks, who describe ‘sneaking in the backdoor with dirty magazines/ now your mother wants to know what all those stains are on your jeans’. The Violent Femmes suffer from a similar compulsion in Blister in the Sun, as ‘I stain my sheets, I don’t even know why’. This defiantly juvenile attitude is echoed in Harvey Danger’s slacker anthem Flagpole Sitta, Nirvana’s early Spank Thru, and even Radiohead’s wonderfully bitter Thinking About You (sample lyric: ‘I still love you, still see you in bed/ But I’m playing with myself, and what do you care’).
However, despite the topic’s boys club reputation, there are really just as many catchy tunes about flicking ya bean as there about pulling ya pud. When Tweet comes home from the club drunk and horny in Oops (Oh My), she can’t resist that BYOB (be your own bae) feeling, knowing she’s ‘looking so good I couldn’t reject myself/ Feeling so good I had to touch myself’). Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj similarly appreciate this self-loving vibe, as demonstrated in downstairs lady-jam jams Touch of My Hand and Feeling Myself. In Hands on Experience Pt. II, the second-to-none ode to self-abuse by hip-hop duo The High & Mighty, it is Jean Grae’s featured verse that really steals the show, as she describes ‘holding myself down while I’m on the clit/ Got gadgets like I’m James Bond and shit’. Compare these catchy bangers to the barely concealed, awkward-boner despair of tunes like Hefner’s Hello Kitten (‘I’m gonna build a shrine to the wasted days/ I’m gonna make myself go blind tonight’) and GG Allin’s brilliantly filthy I Wanna Fuck Myself (‘Girls can’t give me the satisfaction/ I fuck my fist to the rage of passion’), and you start to wonder if maybe women in music simply find a good salad tossing more fulfilling than their alt-bro counterparts do.
While for some, the art of wanking is just another mundane part of life (‘Oh what an ordinary day/ Take out the garbage, masturbate’ – St Vincent, Birth in Reverse), for others it’s raised to a practically transcendent form of self-expression. Belle and Sebastian’s Dirty Dream Number Two gives the sticky subject material a dash of their usual whimsy, when wet dreams become a metaphor for small-town frustrations (‘In a town so small there’s nothing left to do/ Intellectual and perspiring/ Dirty dream number two’). In Roxy Music’s In Every Dream Home a Heartache, a super creepy critique of late-capitalist modern life, consumerism is shown to have replaced romance as Bryan Ferry croons to his blow-up doll, ‘I bought you mail-order/ My plain wrapper baby/ Your skin is like vinyl/ The perfect companion’. Finally, Bjork makes masturbation into a sweeping and cinematic gesture with All is Full of Love, so that the moment when ‘your phone is off the hook/ Your door is shut/All is full of love’ comes to represent a point of spiritual illumination, wholeness and self-understanding.
Ultimately, we can deduce, the thing that unites everyone from ethereal Icelandic visionaries to furious and crusty punks is the common humanity of a good wank. So light those candles, crank up the saucy tunes, and have a night in with yourself – you deserve it, champ.