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i believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe: a discussion about masturbation and Sticky: A (Self) Love Story


Sticky: A (Self) Love Story, is a documentary by freelance writer and director, Nicholas Tana, about a topic that, as his film addresses, is engaged in by nearly ninety percent of people, but is talked about by almost none: masturbation. The film asks kindergarten teachers, rabbis, porn stars and everyone in between to talk about everything there is to say when we talk about self love.

The entire point of Tana’s film is to open up a conversation about masturbation. This topic has been broached throughout history by everyone from sexologist Alfred Kinsey to The Divinyls, yet we still blush and giggle or sometimes even completely ignore it when it’s brought up. Tana’s film touches on why we can’t seem to talk about it, but its main focus is why we should.

When I was in my early teens, I, like nearly every kid, tried to masturbate any way I could. Humping my stuffed animals got me nowhere, rubbing myself wasn’t doing it for me – but one day  I discovered that when I crashed a car in my video game, the X-Box controller vibrated, and it felt really good against where it was sitting in my lap. After that I was on a mission to find something that vibrated for longer, when I found myself considering what would happen if I took the blade off the electric bar mix. When I went to use it, I hit my finger on the vibrating wand, hurting it like hell and ripping the skin off the digit. Needless to say, thank god, it never got near my genitals. If I’d been taught about how one should masturbate safely, I could have avoided nearly tearing apart my vulva.

One of the last segments of the film explores the story of Matthew Burdette, a fourteen year old former boy scout, who committed suicide after a video was leaked of him masturbating in a school bathroom stall. The shame that was imbued in this boy for practicing self pleasure was enough to drive him to end his life.

‘The healthiest perspective a parent can take is that their child is a sexual being,’ says psychologist Dr. Stan Katz in the film. Adults will have somehow become educated about masturbation by the time they get to their adulthood. For teens of the seventies, the books of Judy Blume may have shed some light; for teens of the nineties and naughties, their info was perhaps from American Pie. In the age of the internet, Yahoo Answers and Porn Hub could be the go to for solo sex knowledge. Before a person has consumed any of that media, however, they’ve discovered their genitals and know it feels good to touch them, but are being faced with parents who are too scared to even tell them the anatomical names for their “puffy” or “bipper.” Kids are taught that they should be ashamed of their bodily functions; they are learning self hatred from a young age.

Tana’s film covers practically every corner of the masturbation discussion, with a strong focus on openness and education of young people. As well as employing fine film making skills, Sticky begins a dialogue about an issue that is clearly still rampant. The film pushes the audience to ask themselves why they can’t admit to pleasuring themselves, why pleasure for the sake of pleasure is so wrong, so shameful, so embarrassing. Masturbation itself is perhaps not even what the film is about, but accepting and embracing the ability to give yourself pleasure, and rejecting the idea that your own pleasure is a sin.

This Valentine’s season, check out Sticky, and don’t be afraid to love yourself.



Sticky: A (Self) Love Story is available on Vimeo

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