May 2005

The Bull of Heaven

Sometime last year or so, I called up the Good Vibrations sex toy store in San Francisco and asked if they had consulted an astrologer before declaring May the time of their big annual event, Masturbation Month. May is the season of Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, which is about self-possession, self-knowledge, sensuality, desire (in the inviting rather than the pursuing way), and all forms of pleasure in general. It's also about one's personal wealth and resources. Psychologically, Taurus and its corresponding 2nd house reveal information about self-esteem, whether it exists or where it went.

Looking at the zodiac and its symbols, Taurus is the easiest sign to assign to the ever-popular but often-maligned form of sex known as masturbation. Without so much as calling one of the many good astrologers in the Bay Area, the people at Good Vibes chose the most logical month for their celebration. There are three other signs that I would assign to sexual subject matter. There is Leo and the corresponding 5th house (romance, passion, daring interludes, affairs, as well as art, gambling, and anything involving the kinds of things young people do); there is Scorpio and the corresponding 8th house (deep surrender, overwhelming desire, and marital contracts, as well as situations where reproduction, power, money, property, or death come into play); and Aquarius and the corresponding 11th house (groups, community, culture, friends, and multiple-partner situations).

But since it's Taurus time, this month's edition of Planet Waves will provide what I hope is the best (and perhaps only) masturbation resource guide you've ever had, so get ready to clip and save. There is more to masturbation than most people realize. It is the only form of truly safe sex. It's a healthy way to explore one's feelings. It's part of any wholesome sexual relationship and even some friendships. Here are some places and spaces to explore.

Websites A great site for teens and pre-teens. With topics ranging from Your Social Life to Mental Health to Sex Stuff, there is something here everybody and every body as well. Parents with younger children can also use the site to help their children become more knowledgable and open about these topics or to answer some of "those questions" that are common from kids. The site is very user-friendly, with a "Sexuality FAQs" page that answers over four dozen questions, from "When do I need to see a gynecologist?" to "How do I know if I am gay?" to "If two people test HIV negative, can they give HIV to each other?" This 18 and over website costs a modest $35 per year and provides its members with the benefits of instant publication of stories. Whispering Lily is an online community with thousands of members, countless entries, message boards, discussion groups, internal e-mail, and as much contact information as members see fit to make available. This is the homepage of the Society for Human Sexuality in Seattle, which offers a wealth of resources on masturbation and all forms of sexuality. Incidentally, it is also the online host of the awesome column "Comes Naturally" by David Steinberg. Technically 18+, I see no reason for this designation. I would rate it "parental discretion advised." Lacking nothing in passion, idealism, or generosity, this is the homepage of Betty Dodson, the 1970s pioneer of women's positive body-consciousness and self-pleasure (who is still available in Manhattan for private sessions). This sprawling site includes many reader-submitted stories, long excerpts from Betty's unpublished memoirs, and some photos. It's an 18+ site for this reason. There are a variety of products for sale, including several of Betty's videos (a new one is in the works, she tells me), and her classic book Sex For One. The website of Joseph Kramer, perhaps the nation's leading expert on Alfred Kinsey (recently knighted a Ph.D. for his studies on the Kinsey Reports), and the founder of the Body Electric School. I don't think that there are any free resources on this site—just educational videos on masturbation and erotic massage for sale. The Body Electric School still exists, and is easy to find.


Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation by Thomas W. Laqueur, the acclaimed and extremely fascinating history of masturbation. This is an erudite, carefully researched, and elegantly written book that traces the history of masturbation throughout modern history. It explains the origin of the current masturbation taboo, tracing it back to a single pamphlet published by an anonymous "doctor" in the 1800s.

Sex for One by Betty Dodson. Based on a handmade book she self-published in 1974, Sex For One remains one of the few straightforward books on women's self-sexuality, and is great reading for everyone from teenagers to granny. It is an artifact of another day, when a certain boldness, curiosity, and quest for liberation was in the air. Includes much '70s history and autobiography by the author.

I Am My Lover, edited by Joani Blank. This is a collection of photo essays (all black-and- white) of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes pleasuring themselves. No household should be without a copy. You can get it at any of the stores listed below.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. The truly classic collection of erotic fantasies by women, My Secret Garden is a book that has changed many people's lives for the better, giving them permission to think what they think, want what they want, and feel what they feel. It's a kind of exposé for any who thought that chastity of the female mind prevailed.

The Hite Report by Shere Hite. They don't make books like this one any more. A national survey of women's sexuality published in the mid-1970s, another on my list of "No Household Bookshelf Is Complete Without It" collection.

Toys and Supplies

There are some items that nobody should be without, and you can find them at the links (or stores) below. The three stores I am listing are woman-friendly and offer shame-free, pleasure friendly shopping environments. They all have excellent reputations.

Good Vibrations ( Based in San Francisco and Berkeley, this online store has lots and lots in the way of toys, reading material, gifts, whips, and so on. If you're ever in the Bay Area, don't miss it. But you can have the online experience any time you like. Note: The best sex toys are made of silicone, which is durable, nontoxic, and can be boiled. Expect to pay between $35 and $100 for a silicone toy anywhere.

Toys in Babeland ( Based in Seattle, this is also an excellent shop with a nice bookshelf, many varieties of toys, and classes and seminars if you happen to be in Seattle. Another mecca of sexpositivism.

Eve's Garden ( The site is both a store and a publication. This shop, physically located at 119 W. 57th Street in Manhattan, was begun in 1974 to supply participants of Betty Dodson's workshops with the necessary equipment. If you're in the city, it's worth a visit.

Okay—that's all I have room for. More in May at, proud supporters, endorsers, and participants in Masturbation Month.

Eric Francis will be in the Hudson Valley in mid-May. If you would like to set up an appointment with him, please e-mail

Originally published in Chronogram, May 2005 as Bull of Heaven at