Masturbation is frequently used metaphorically to describe non-sexual activity of a highly self-indulgent nature. This week, Ottawa’s May Can Theatre company rolls out Jerk It, a night of stories about the many (non-metaphorical) faces of jerking, flicking and wanking.
Co-creator Tony Adams explains that the concept (the performers will be reading true, anonymously sourced tales of onanism) sprung from wanting to tell his own stories. However, to avoid creating an example of that metaphorical kind of masturbation, Adams and company put out an open call for stories.
“I think it’s mostly because I had, like, eight stories to tell,” he says of the inspiration for the show. “It’s such a weird thing; it’s something everybody does, but nobody talks about it. I just wanted to get people together and kind of celebrate ourselves and what we do. Your sexuality isn’t weird in any way.”
Three of Adams’s stories made the final cut, and he enthusiastically shares one with Xtra without prompting: he was 18 and had just returned home from a night of drink and dancing in Hull.
“You’re 18 and live at home, so you can’t go home with anyone. We didn’t have internet; all we had was basic cable. I needed to just, you know, jerk off, get it out of my system. It’s two o’clock in the morning and the only thing on is chat-line commercials, where there’s girls on the bed in underwear, just talking on the phone having a great time.” He called and signed up. “I would keep sending messages and no one would answer me, probably because I sounded like an 18-year-old idiot.” He finally got a message from an older woman. “She’s talking to me and saying all these dirty things and I’m thinking, ‘This is super cool.’ Then she mentions a boner, and I’m like, ‘My boner?’” A closer look at the original message revealed that he’d connected with a transsexual; neither party had found what they’d been looking for. “There were a lot of repercussions from that night,” he laughs, recalling a less-than-positive reaction to the subsequent $400 phone bill.
Jerk It is meant to be an interactive experience, Adams says. Following the performance, audience members are invited to share their own stories.
“I think that’s important: sharing experiences and to find the common ground — to put it out there and be comfortable with it.”
Performer David Benedict Brown says he prefers not to share any personal experiences but fully embraces that spirit of openness.
“It’s important to talk about sexuality openly. [Masturbation] is not an incredibly common topic of conversation. You never just have a night of jerk-off stories. I’ve never come across that before.
“Sexuality is important,” he adds. “Sexuality with yourself as a partner, that’s important, too. The soul is highly involved in sexual acts and spirit.”