It is a weekend and you are with your friends chatting about everything and nothing. As is usually the case when men are having a conversation, it is almost invariably about politics, football or women.
This time around it is the latter and the conversation is flowing smoothly. Everyone has a thing or two to say. At least that is until someone mentions the taboo word, masturbation, and you all cringe with embarrassment. “A le ja lebo? (Do you masturbate?),” Lebo being short for Lebogo, (a hand) they would ask.
Batswana men seem to have absolutely no qualms about bragging to friends about their latest flings and sexual exploits some details of which would be better left for X-rated publications.
But the mere mention of the word masturbation seems to send chills down everyone’s spine. Of course, the act of masturbating is an absolutely private matter. And so is having sex with a partner but we seem to have no problem bragging to friends about it.
But in this era of HIV/AIDS shouldn’t the powers that be, add self stimulation to the existing ABCs as an alternative form of sexual gratification?
“Our position as a church remains that of abstinence before marriage,” says Pastor Boitirelo Kabo of the Seventh Day Adventist church.
“When we speak of abstinence, we mean keeping away from all forms of sex until such a time that one is married and can accordingly enjoy their conjugal rights.” Kabo says they do not encourage self stimulation. He says it is not even mentioned anywhere in the bible.
“The bible does not specifically mention the act of masturbation but it does denounce all forms of sexual impurity,”he says.
The other problem with masturbation according to health experts, he says, is that self stimulation can be addictive and prevent people from fully enjoying their conjugal rights. He says under no circumstances would the church encourage self stimulation as an alternative HIV/AIDS prevention measure.
If anything, he says, they would rather speak against it. “Our position with regard to HIV/AIDS prevention is that of total abstinence or faithfulness in marriage,” Kabo says.
Programs and Communications Manager at PSI Botswana Moatlhodi Mahupu concurs that despite being a sound alternative for HIV/AIDS prevention masturbation remains a taboo subject among most Batswana.
“Too many people are still afraid to speak out about it because of societal and moral perceptions attached to the practice. Nobody wants to be judged.” He says the Ministry of Health had in the past made efforts to include masturbation in their prevention strategies under the tag line ‘do it yourself (DIY)’.
“I cannot recall how far they managed to go with the campaign. YOHO (Youth Health Organisation ) has also on several occasions encouraged young people who are not yet responsible enough to engage in actual sexual intercourse, to resort to masturbation as a form of sexual gratification.” However, Mahupu says, calls for masturbation as a preventative measure for HIV have never been robust enough.
“Any act that involves sex should be strictly for procreation or strengthening love in a relationship between two married individuals,” says Father Vitalis Phakisi of the Roman Catholic Church. He says the church is against any other form of sexual satisfaction even if it means being employed as a protective measure for HIV/AIDS. He says the bible forbids self stimulation. “It constitutes moral disorder,” Vitalis says.
“While some people believe that there is no need for masturbation in a relationship, self stimulation allows you to discover your own body and find out what you like. If you know your body and know what excites you then you can communicate that to your partner,” says Matty Silver in her article ‘Why is masturbation such a taboo topic’ (The Sidney Morning Herald). If you are not in a relationship, she says, it gives you the sexual release you need.
She says research has shown that men who masturbate regularly are less at risk of developing prostate cancer. “It also helps to combat premature ejaculation. If you train yourself to last longer solo, you will last longer with your partner.”
She says for women, self stimulation allows them to understand their body better. “So you will know exactly what you like when you have sex with a partner. This benefits both partners involved.