Sunday Dispatch: Masturbate-A-Thon 2008


(Click the image for more Masturbate-A-Thon photos.)

By Ashley Harrell

If somebody had been standing outside of 1519 Mission Street, watching as people came and went beneath the pink awning on Sunday (quite possibly the unholiest Sunday in recent history), that somebody would have seen the stuff of legends. The Center for Sex & Culture was hosting its annual masturbate-a-thon, which has a way of drawing “San Francisco’s finest,” explained Sue, a voluptuous volunteer door greeter in a black corset and wild hair.

Though that door walked a hoary hippie who looked like Moses and was practiced in the way of tantra. He broke the world record for orgasming the most times (31). Then there was Kitty Kat, a 28-year-old erotic masseuse in pink cat ears, who masturbated with dildos, a vibrating five-fingered glove, and a sex machine, for seven hours (another new world record).

The surprise guests of honor were three Japanese men – all had come from Tokyo unannounced. One said he was an editor of a magazine similar to Maxim. The other two wore red jumpsuits with the slogan “New Adult Concept” printed up one side. They were apparently doing marketing research for the Tenga – a Japanese version of vagina in a can. They too became record breakers.

Inside, the participants, who had each paid $20 for the privilege of masturbating in a communal setting, were free to move about three rooms, which were stocked with refreshments and decorated with plenty of masturbation artwork. In the media room, center founders Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence – who both brag doctorates in education in human sexuality – schmoozed on a velvet yellow and purple couch and educated newcomers.

The “wankathon” as Lawrence likes to call it, traces back to 1995, after ex-surgeon general Jocelyn Elder was fired for saying in public that masturbation was part of human sexuality and should “perhaps be taught.” That’s when folks at Good Vibrations, a sex toy business, designated May the masturbation month. Then in 1999, the Center got provided a space for group masturbation, and its been raising thousands of dollars at the event (as have spin-offs in Portland and the UK) ever since.

“The [raised] money goes to administrative costs of the organization,” Lawrence explained. “And safer sex is part of the mission.”

To get people donating, it’s important to get them excited about stuff. Literally. For instance, when Lawrence announced that Robert Black might get on stage and jerk off in his own mouth, that was worth $100. It would happen in the largest room at the back of the center before both a live audience and cameras taking live Internet footage.

In this room, throughout Sunday, dozens of different people would lay around on blankets and pillows, touching themselves, screaming, panting, and orgasming. A team of documentary filmmakers working on a project called “Sticky” interviewed and filmed many of the performers, who in turn danced around a stripper pole, sang songs, played the violin, and theatrically masturbated to climax on a giant sofa. By the time the sun went down, the room reeked of sex juice, and somebody turned on a fan. It didn’t help.

But the bad smell was in the name of world record-breaking. Kitty Cat went at herself for seven hours, beating journalist Norine Dworkin’s record of 6 and a half hours. Kitty Cat orgasmed approximately once an hour, she said, except when the violinist came in and played Brahm’s Hungarian Dance number 5. Then she had four orgasms. “I’m probably a little sore,” she said afterward, “but not any more than after a good night of rolling in the hay.” As her reward she received free dildos and a pair of thong underwear

In the men’s endurance competition, the two guys from Tokyo were head to head. They were Norihiro Taneichi and Masanobu Sato, and both were using the Tenga – a red and white stripped disposable masturbation aid.

After 8 hours and 40 minutes, when both had broken the world record, Taneichi finally gave up. After all, he had already won the honor of “farthest distance come to come” by about 10 minutes. Both men seemed exhausted, and cited jet lag and sleepiness as their biggest challenges. But in the end, 20 years of intense training helped Sato pull though, he said.

As the competition wound down, a group of naked men approached Tsuyoshi Yoshida, the International Division manager of Tenga. Did he have any more of those? How did they work? Could they be purchased on the Internet? Name had them each insert a finger inside a tester Tenga, and their smiling faces reflected just how vaginal the lubed soft plastic felt. “Oh yeah,” one said.

In approximately two months, Yoshida says, the Tenga will hit the American market.


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