This is a work of fiction by Louise Bruton, based on… some truths.
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I’ve become a pathological wanker.
Of all the things I thought I’d achieve during lockdown – start writing a novel, learn how to knit, finally watch Breaking Bad – wanking was not the thing I thought I’d become so skilled in. I live in a house with two women I’ve known my whole life and, in some warped way, by week three we became like Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides.[restrict]
The outside world is shut off to us so all we have is ourselves and the stories we share but we are mostly gripped by the talk of and the act of masturbation. In our new way of living, small acts are magnified and sometimes the silence is the equivalent of a bloodcurdling scream. While we haven’t suffered grief like the Lisbon sisters, we’re dealing with a different kind of grief, one that could come knocking any day now. There’s also lots of tea. Maybe it’s because we ran out of real things to talk about – office gossip, tales from debaucherous nights out, TV recommendations before we watched every single thing together as a group activity – but we bond over our wanking.
We talk about it in the same way we would a yoga class or a dance routine we want to learn from TikTok. We weren’t always this open with each other. For the first three weeks, my new hobby was for the dark of night only. Instead of relying on sleeping tablets or weed, I chose the self- serving satisfaction of a nighttime wank to send me off into a deep slumber.
Soon, my nightly routine became my morning one and eventually my afternoon one too. I wake up, I wank. I have breakfast and think about life for about an hour or two until I go for a run. My post-run wanks are my favourite. It must be something to do with adrenaline or how my tits look in sports bras. I then have my post-run-wank shower, where I also wank. I have lunch, walk the dog, make dinner, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then retire to my bedroom to, you guessed it, have a wank.
It didn’t take long for it to become a reward system for small tasks, like if I finish a chapter in a book, I turn a different page. In fact, if I’ve any time to spare, rather than fixate on the bigger picture, I just wank instead. I had half an hour to kill one evening before an online Zoom quiz, so I just jerked off until it was time to log on. I came fifth in the quiz but I came three times in total.
Anytime I’m not wanking, I’m planning my next session. In case it isn’t clear, I haven’t had any work since the lockdown began. Only one of us is still employed in this household but we still maintain working hours between 9am and 5pm for personal activities, so shared housemate time kicks off at dinnertime. When lunches and dinners were just part of a busy day, planning and making lunches and dinners is now what makes our days busy, and wanking is what makes them fun. I was never like this before.
Sort of like that “nature is healing, we are the virus” meme that’s going around, I think I filled my sex life with massive distractions so I never really had to focus entirely on what I needed. And now I’m all in because there’s no one else around to hold out for, no one else to please. Wanking gives me focus, if at times it makes me feel feral. In the same way that I run 5K every day – something I would never have dreamed of doing before lockdown, by the way – I wank because it shuts my mind off. There’s an end goal, a target and a time limit I need to hit. I need to sweat, I need to feel adrenaline and I need to move. And with both running and wanking I feel the need to beat (off) my personal best. I am competing with myself so I can feel better. It’s short-term solutions for long-term gain.
However, one day I took it too far.
Within the space of 24 hours, I jerked off six times. That’s not six individual wanks but six sessions with multiple climaxes each time. Like a teenager that had just graduated from a shared bedroom to their very own room, I overindulged in myself. As I was making tea for my housemates one evening as we were loading up season two of Buffy, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “I cannot stop wanking”, I told them, expecting concerned judgement but through my truth eruption, the metaphorical floodgates opened.
None of us could stop.
Behind each closed bedroom door, when we thought that people were crying or watching the Gilmore Girls, it turns out that we were all using masturbation as a coping mechanism. As fun and satisfying as it is, that’s what we were doing. We were getting off on the distraction, going at it more than before and trying new methods to maintain the thrill so that we didn’t have to face the trauma of the real world. One housemate has taken to video-calling her ex-girlfriend in Berlin. They’ve no desire to ever get back together but they know how to “get the job done”, so she says. The other housemate tends to follow her own wanks with a long, cathartic cry. We’ve all dabbled in PornHub, flirted with the idea of subscribing to OnlyFans and we’ve all admitted to filming ourselves in action, sharing lighting and phone angling tips along the way.
We’ve questioned the ethics of ordering sex toys online but rationalised that it’s better to get a delivery rather than roaming the streets out of lust. Our finest pooled conclusion is that there can be no masturbatory judgment during lockdown. None. Now is not the time for vanilla as we are all just trying to get our bit as we flatten the curve. Besides, all judgment must be reserved for those couples who insist on taking up entire footpaths on their daily walk. They are truly, truly the worst.
However, tipping into week four, we know that our old means will soon grow tired and this is where our collective horn becomes questionable. To stop us from getting in contact with or daydreaming about bad exes or fit-for-purpose fuck boys, we have decided to project our desire onto the one man who has never let us down. That man is former Manchester United captain, and wordsmith, Eric Cantona.
Not since the days of Robbie in Take That or Nick in Backstreet Boys has one gaggle of girls fixated on the one man so devotedly but in our house, we get down for Cantona. In many ways, he is the perfect man. He is French. He’s very serious but, as a concept, he’s incredibly and unintentionally silly. He’s decisive and a no-nonsense leader. He may be reckless but that’s only when his pride is on the line, which is really quite noble. Bringing us closer together as a household, we share our own fantasies of Cantona each day.
Each fantasy we offer represents the wild and varied levels of affection and eroticism that each housemate lives by. Long and wine-soaked weekends spent on a barge where it’s forever sunset and he never runs out of strawberries to feed you. Dark and grotty nightclubs where he is the unassuming star of the dance floor but only has eyes and moves for you. Sweaty sex that he confusingly dictates with quotes like ‘When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”.
We nod along, mesmerised, because in his oddities lie erotic genius. We use Cantona because he gives us something more to talk about than just how fucking weird everything is right now. Besides, we don’t know when we can actually access other people.
May 6 is a big date in our calendars but what does that really mean for sex and intimacy? Will we actually be able to visit other people’s homes from that point on? And if we can, do we prioritise a bang over our family and friends? As is the way with lockdown, we have no fucking idea so this is how we cope. With wanking, full-blown escapism and a deeper appreciation for ‘me’ time.
Main image from sportsbible.com[/restrict]