I didn’t learn how to properly jerk off until I was a freshman in high school. That’s because, when I was 12, I was playing around with an adjustable speed Panasonic Panabrator my dad ordered from the Sharper Image catalog to nurse a hamstring injury. Long story short, about 45 seconds, in fact, I Panabrated my barely pubescent boner and ejaculated for the first time. This is what sex is like! I breathlessly concluded, before Panabrating again and again — and throughout much of Bill Clinton’s first year in office. (Dad’s hamstring eventually healed itself.)
During those salad days, the Panabrator lived under my bed, next to an ever-splotchier pair of J Crew boxers, and I Panabrated so often it frayed the power cord. (Thank God for duct tape.) But I didn’t pack the Panabrator when I went away to boarding school; instead, I learned how to rightly masturbate during a circle jerk.
Many years later, as a nearly thirtysomething, I was home over Thanksgiving attempting to avoid my family by sifting through an old box in my bedroom. I audibly gasped when — amongst a smattering of faded Garbage Pail Kids and country-club tennis trophies — I discovered my beloved Panabrator’s cord was split in two. Like most adults, you likely would’ve thrown the no-doubt-about-it fire hazard away and joined your family in the living room to watch the end of The Bourne Ultimatum. I locked the door, though, determined to take the Panabrator for one last buzz around the block.
But I’m no welder. So when I hastily attempted to reunite the live wires with one hand while fluffing myself with the other, a very different type of explosion ensued, followed by a concerned knock on the door. “Everything’s fine mom,” I explained, burying the scorched Panabrator deep in my suitcase.
All of this is to say, it’s nearly impossible to resist the urge to masturbate in your childhood bedroom when you go home for the holidays. “If anyone says they don’t do it, they’re lying,” says stumpdawg, a 28-year-old I meet in the r/gaming subreddit. That’s because, according to Paul Nelson — a male sexuality educator and clinical sexologist at The Men’s Sexual Health Project in New York — the site of a man’s first masturbation session is the birthplace of his sexuality. “Most guys probably even had collections of cum rags,” he tells me, “like a memory chest of memories. So when they return to that place as 30- or 40-year-old men, they may say to themselves, “Think of the number of times that I jacked off in this bed.” It’s a nostalgic reconnection to a younger, youthful, sexually naive self.”
And since many men have their first sexual experience in this room, they’ll respond much more powerfully to such memories than they do to porn. Which makes beating off there all the more alluring.
This was the case for Chet, a 40-year-old from Upstate New York, who recently spent a couple months in his childhood home after his elderly father couldn’t live on his own any more. “I jerked off all over that house,” he tells me, “while reliving all the adolescent circle jerks I had with buddies in my bedroom.”
The phenomenon isn’t exclusively American either. Hans for example, a 25-year-old Scandinavian, went home last Christmas after living abroad and used the exact same lube and box of tissues on the bedside table in his bedroom, which he tells me, “always, did the trick.” His parents were home, so he followed the same rule he did as a teen: “Lock the door and don’t make stupid noises.”
Sometimes returning to one’s childhood wankdome makes a man realize, as I did, that he’d been doing it all wrong the whole time. Case in point: My cousin Curt used to anally penetrate himself while jerking off on the ceramic tile floor of a bathroom at the top of the stairs, the setting of “hundreds of orgasm-inducing activities,” he tells me. “I clearly remember my favorite aid in the process: a red-and-black joystick from my Commodore 64. I’d lube it up with the jar of vaseline that I’d ‘borrowed’ from my parents bathroom and plug away during the session.”
When Curt returned home a couple years ago to help prepare the home to be sold, he readied the bathroom — and the joystick — for a farewell jaunt. It was then that he realized for the first time that there was a three-inch gap between the marble threshold and the bottom of the door. As a result — and unbeknownst to him — anyone who climbed the stairs could fully see what was going on in the bathroom. It didn’t necessarily stop Curt, though. He just retreated to the fancy guest room, which he found to be a similarly exciting, taboo setting.
Brian, a gay 27-year-old father of four, also took precautions when he and his kids visited his parents last Thanksgiving. He escaped to his old bedroom when he got bored watching the football game and discovered that nothing had changed: There was still a white bookshelf with occult books and a dictionary he’d hollowed out to hide his bong; a lamp shaped like a skull he’d bought during his goth phase; a burn on the rug from when he tried to summon a ghost; and under his bed, an old shoe box with Abercrombie & Fitch catalogues, hidden by a few comic books. (He also kept some Victoria’s Secret catalogues on his desk to “throw his parents off.”)
“I didn’t go looking for the A&F catalogues that day,” he explains. “I was just looking through my old stuff on a nostalgia trip. But I sat down on my bed with my old wank mags, and it just seemed like something I had to do. My parents broke the lock on my door so I put my rolling desk chair in front of it. The whole experience was neither sad nor happy, but it made me think fondly of my first boyfriend, which was nice, emotionally. It also wasn’t too physically satisfying — internet porn and Fleshlights have ruined me.”
Along those lines, the internet made 45-year-old Jack’s former inspiration — “anything on HBO that showed boobs” — moot when he returned to his childhood bedroom in New Haven, Connecticut last holiday season. Posters of 1980s punk bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Dead Kennedys still papered the walls as Jack secured the room with a faux work set-up (he always used to make it look like he was studying). “It’s the psychosexual equivalent of Glamping,” he tells me. “All the nostalgia with the comfort of new tech and a 4D experience with the touch of a button.”
Concealment tactics like pretending to study can be as exciting as the wank itself, Nelson explains. “Just as you didn’t want people walking in when you were 14, you don’t want them walking in when you’re 40. Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion. It’s the longing for what we had and remembering the innocence lost. This holiday season, I’d suggest guys do it as a celebration of their sexuality’s evolution. And as a way to think, Look at how far I’ve come.”
Or given the topic at hand (or at least what’s in your hand), look how far you’ve cum.