Dear 69th Street readers,

My mom reminded me the other day that it’s embarrassing to celebrate Valentine’s Day because it’s buying into a capitalist exploitation of love, and creating unrealistic and superficial expectations of what love looks like. So today I want to talk about “self–love.” And by “self–love,” I mean masturbating.

Sexual activity with another person can be messy and complicated in my opinion—attachment, body comparison, fluids in general, etc. And then there’s masturbation: such a perfect, innocuous pastime. For a long time, I sought sex when I was at my most insecure and unfulfilled. I wasn’t listening to the blaring signals to step back and actually gain strength and confidence from being alone. When I sought sex for security and pleasure, I typically left feeling more insecure and just as horny because they never put in the work to help me finish. I looked at masturbating as a sad alternative, something that signified the absence of somebody else. But the fact is, it’s not the absence of somebody else, it’s the presence and self–sufficiency of you. Wild, right? 

When I finally adopted this mindset, I started investing in myself. I went to a sex shop, and had an in–depth conversation with one of the employees. They showed me vibrators that would build on and elevate my own manual methods that I had developed over the years. I’ve tried a couple different ones, starting off cheaper and then going bougier once I felt more comfortable. I’m a sucker for toys that charge via laptop because I’m a woman of the future.

That being said, I recognize toys can be crazy expensive, so it’s good to always field new tips on manual masturbation. The internet is a never–ending sex sinkhole; there are so many forums of strangers helping strangers get off on their own, with niche and helpful tricks. There’s even a site called “omgyes” with instructional masturbation videos. I was unwilling to pay the subscription, so I’ve only gotten to watch the edging one, and it’s fantastic. The downside of “omgyes” is that it’s focused on people with vaginas, but hopefully they are working on inclusivity. If you’re not getting what you need from the web, don’t rule out friends! Masturbation is not freakish, and I’ve found once you provide a safe and judgment–free space to discuss it, stories and advice start flowing. 

I’m in a long–term relationship, and I have consistent and satisfying sex (sick, Hannah!), but I still put emphasis on masturbating. It’s my thing, and nobody can take it from me. Happy Valentine’s Day!

—Hannah




Dear 69th Street readers,

Let me begin by saying that I understand Hannah’s frustrations with Valentine’s Day and am almost certainly going to masturbate at least once today. However, I’m also a sucker for any holiday with a color–specific dress code, so I say God bless it!

Plus, in a stroke of good luck, today is not only the Catholic Feast of Saint Valentine. It also happens to be Ash Wednesday, my favorite holiday of the liturgical year! Given my aforementioned love of fashion forward holidays, catch me wearing pink accents with an ashen cross on my forehead, filled with extra holiday cheer today.

Over the years, my Valentine’s Day celebrations have evolved as I’ve grown into my sexuality and relationships with others. When I was little, my older sister was always my Valentine, but as I reached sexual maturity, the arrangement became less comfortable for the both of us. After that, I spent many adolescent years lamenting over my lack of a romantic Valentine. I refused to take part in the joy of the holiday as a personal protest against every boy who didn’t have a crush on me. In recent years, I’ve tried to cure my loneliness by trolling Grindr for last–minute dick appointments, which is the equivalent of going to the mall to buy gifts on Christmas Eve. This is no way to celebrate, given that it’s how I spend most weeknights anyway.

This year, I’m planning on passing out little store–bought Valentines to everyone in each of my seminars and buying more than my usual daily haul of sweets from Wawa to eat with my roommates—no joke. I’ll probably call my mom and my sister to tell them I love them, then I’ll use my special moisturizer that I usually only use on my hands on my whole body. My goal is to feel and to give as much love as possible, and to be thankful for the love that I have instead of yearning for love that I don’t.

For me, the key is just to not let Valentine’s Day bring me down. There are a million ways to celebrate today, but brooding over my loneliness is not one. Whether you’re celebrating with a romantic partner, a sexual partner, a friend, a family member, a stranger, or yourself, I believe it’s possible to find love and joy today. And if not today, then certainly tomorrow when the chocolates go on sale.

—John



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