While graphic sex scenes are a go-to trick for many daring filmmakers to keep their audience hot and bothered, the act of self-love is still somewhat of a taboo. Maybe it’s because we value partner sex as the only legitimate form of sex—or maybe it’s because masturbation, like periods, is something we’re expected not to talk about.
That’s why, when we do see a character or a performer putting his/her/their hand under the blanket, we rarely forget it. But in case you did (or were too young to see it at the time), here are, hands down, the most spectacular masturbation moments in pop culture over the last 25 years.
The Doom Generation (1995)
Gregg Araki’s seminal ‘90s teen movie about a trio of teenagers on the run from, well, the whole world, featured many scandalous scenes—both in terms of sex and violence. Only 18 minutes into the film, bloodied Xavier (Johnathon Schaech) is spying on his road trip buddies Amy (Rose McGowan) and Jordan (James Duval) having sex in a motel’s bathroom. He begins masturbating, finishing off by proudly devouring his own semen. Gotta love the ‘90s!
American Pie (1999)
Speaking of ‘90s teen movies, we can’t forget this classic hormone-infested tale. Four (straight) high-school boys make a pact to lose their virginity before prom. The scene in question involves a titular apple pie that was deflowered (or should we say de-flour-ed?) by Jason Biggs’ adventurous Jim. Out of all the solo acts to replicate from this article, putting your junk in a hot pie isn’t highly recommended.
“Touch of My Hand”- Britney Spears (2003)
While pedestrian pop fans consider “Toxic” to be the highlight of gay icon Britney’s 2003 album In The Zone, true Stans will tell you that “Touch of My Hand” really does get the upper hand:
’Cause I just discovered
Imagination’s taking over
Another day without a lover
The more I come to understand
The touch of my hand
This self-pleasing anthem didn’t get the single (or, in this case, solo) treatment, but Britney still performed the hell out of it during her shows—most notably during her steamy Onyx Hotel Tour while wearing a skin-tight suit and caressing herself in a transparent tub.
In his follow-up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), John Cameron Mitchell’s cult New York-set dramedy is a proper staple of LGBTQ2 cinema. Not just for its multi-layered plot involving various free spirits looking for love and pleasure in the big city, but also for its brave depiction of all things sexual: from oral sex to men ejaculating over each other, to very generous portrayals of masturbation, which were reportedly not fake. (Early-on, one of the characters performs self-fellatio and comes in his own mouth.)
Going the Distance (2010)
By now you have probably already mastered the art of phone sex—whether it’s a text-and-come technique, or an old-fashioned conversation. So when it comes to this Nanette Burstein–directed romantic comedy, you’ll look at Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long)’s clumsy attempts to spice up their long-distance relationship with a knowing, forgiving smile. Young self-love as it is.
American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)
Right off the bat, famed gay writer Ryan Murphy didn’t waste any time presenting the world with his wicked blend of scary and sexy thrills. The first season of American Horror Story—subtitled Murder House—revolved around a troubled family moving into a cursed, haunted house after Ben (Dylan McDermott) was caught cheating on his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton). In the pilot episode, Ben stumbles on the masturbating ghost of maid Moira O’Hara (Alexandra Breckenridge), who appears to men as a sultry, young temptress (the elder version of Moira—how she is seen by everyone else—is played by Frances Conroy). In an attempt to control his urges, Ben storms into his own room to follow suit. His moaning quickly morphs into crying, as if warning the viewers that in this show pain and pleasure go (no pun intended) hand-in-hand.
AHS doesn’t shy away from solo sex—especially the weird kind: In Season 7 of Cult, a masturbating clown terrorizes Sarah Paulson’s character in a restaurant.
Fairy Dust (2016)
The openly bisexual Swedish pop star Tove Lo has given us countless jams over the years, including “Habits (Stay High)” and “Cool Girl”—along with a lot of stunning visuals for these bangers. Her 2016 short film Fairy Dust ends on an especially sensual note. Over the credits, Lo is seen masturbating on a bed as “What I Want for the Night (Bitches)” plays—a song about sleeping with many women.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
One of the most remarkable queer love stories in film history, Call Me by Your Name was directed by Luca Guadagnino and won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (the movie was based on André Aciman’s 2007 book of the same name). It also featured one of the most fascinating depictions of young lust. Seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) comes into a ripe peach while dreaming of the 24-year-old American named Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is staying with Elio and his family. Since the only place many of us can go these days is to a local supermarket, we can see the appeal.
“Solo” – Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato (2018)
This has got to be the catchiest masturbation anthem of all times:
I wanna f-woop, woop woop, but I’m broken hearted
Cry since the day we parted
Touch but I got nobody
So I do it solo.
The video is also all sorts of exciting: Clean Bandit’s cellist and occasional vocalist Grace Chatto literally turns her angry boyfriend into a lap dog. And if the story wasn’t wild enough, the video also features several brief scenes of Grace’s face-melting masturbation while her bandmates work on the potion that will de-human her boyfriend. This is the Weird Science reboot we deserved.
You really can’t have a hit teen show without masturbation, can you? And why should you? HBO’s smash hit told intertwined stories about several troubled California teenagers navigating high school, identity and growing up. In one of the episodes, Zendaya’s post-rehab Rue is masturbating in her room while simultaneously thinking of her girlfriend Jules (Hunter Schafer) and her favourite drugs. While we’re not so keen on teens using illegal substances (or moms banging on our doors, for that matter), we totally salute Rue’s music choice: Catalan flamenco-pop singer Rosalía’s “Malamente” (a story of bad omens and cursed lovers) is definitely on our “Touching Music” playlist.
Sex Education (2020)
Learning about sex usually begins as a teen, likely in a pretty basic sex-ed class. But one thing not all schools teach are the joys of masturbation. No wonder jerking off (or, as the British call it, “wanking”) was a big thing among the kids in Netflix’s hit LGBTQ2-positive show. Sex Education follows teenage wannabe sex therapist Otis (Asa Butterfield), who is running an underground sex clinic at school to coach his peers on all things sex-related. In Season 1, Otis suggests that Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) try masturbating to learn what she likes—which ends up with her returning to thank Otis after a day of orgasmic bliss. And in the first episode of Season 2, we see Otis being unable to control his newly-found love for wanking (and blessing us with a super long opening scene of it while a chorus of teens sing “Touch Myself”).
Today we learned: a) do masturbate as much as you want, and b) do not do it in public. Class dismissed.