|Clarice of Cokke’s Lane, perhaps? This was
the art in our lovely room at the Rookery,
just going to show that we are not the
first to bring vice to London.
I know, I know, it’s about time! I have a good excuse: All Has Been Chaos. We’ve had to rather suddenly move the Center for Sex & Culture (we knew when we went to London that it was pending, but we had given two whole months’ notice, and by the time we returned the situation had changed and we needed to get out by the end of August. Much gnashing of teeth and schlepping of sex books ensued).
More on this and our future plans another time, because I want to get back to the Masturbate-a-Thon. But if you are in a position to help CSC in its hour of need, please visit the website and see where to send checks or donate via PayPal: and thank you a million for pitching in.
Oh, AND — I was also distracted by yet another Masturbate-a-Thon, this one in Washington, DC, held last weekend. Well, it’s only right: that’s where we send all our big wankers here in the US. Right?
Geez, that verges on the masturbation-negative. I take it back.
Anyway, more about that one to come. Also a Londoner’s Masturbate-a-Thon testimonial, posted here a bit later today!
But let me take you back in the distant past (well, in blog years it’s ancient, huh? I know, I’ll get the hang of timely reportage eventually): It was 5. August in Clerkenwell, the London district neighboring on our lovely hotel across from Smithfield Market, where our friend Clive has managed to sleep okay on the Rookery floor in spite of the fact that the nervous North African night clerk has called to snag the sofa cushions back. By noon that day, we had gotten our jetlagged asses over to Drop Studio and entered the altered state that was the world’s (to date) most successful Masturbate-a-Thon.
Now, at a normal Masturbate-a-Thon (that is, one WE run), we would have spent the day frantically setting up a nice cushy masturbation-friendly environment, copying age statements and releases, and generally acting like crazed bureaucratic hostess-weasels. None of this was necessary at the UK Thon because other people did all that. And it was going to be on TV, so actual trained professionals did it: the seraglio look was very pretty and my only worry about the place was, as it had been when we saw it as an open, undecorated space, that there’d not be enough room for all the wankers.
But at noon they were just adding finishing touches, the cloth-walled rooms the large space had been subdivided into were not full of people yet, and Robert and I took seats in the small lounge to talk to the press.
And people, I am not exaggerating here: I talked to the press for the next six and a half hours! To put this into wank perpective for you, that’s the 2004 duration record, both male AND female. The men’s record has since been broken twice, as you may know, but that women’s record stands; neither were destined to be broken at the UK ‘Thon, though the shiny trophies to be awarded the winnders sat on the entry table to inspire people as they signed in.
So as I talked about masturbation, The Discourse, safer sex, and the differences between London and San Francisco with a stream of press people (and at least one author working on a book about sex in the UK), the actual masturbators themselves streamed steadily in. Some came by and picked up a copy of Razzle or one of the gay skin mags that had been donated. They self-selected into the room they wanted to occupy: women could pick a room with no men, and men could choose one with no women; anyone could occupy the mixed-gender space or step into the room full of cameras, where Liz and Rob stood ready to document anything and everything that happened.
The press conference commenced about noon. The official ‘Thon began at 2 pm. By that time we had our one picketer — word had it we were going to Be Picketed, but this was all the outrage, apparently, that London could muster: a lone fellow carrying a sign plaintively asking something along the lines of “Is This the Sort of Behavior We Want in Clerkenwell?” Interestingly, so fraught is the conversation about the effect of the press (already swirling, as I wrote in Part One, around this event because of Channel 4’s involvement) that people accused the picketer of being hired by the TV production company. Myself, I was rather sorry not to have had ten biddies wearing flowered dresses that made them look like sofas. That we did not was all the proof one needed, I think, that the TV people did NOT hire the one lonely guy. Wouldn’t they have arranged for soemthing more colorful?
Inside, as the wankatory rooms filled and the clothes check staff got in the swing of things, I talked to reporters from Spain, New Zealand, and all over England. There were podcasters and mainstream papers and everybody in between. A partial listing of press hits is on masturbate-a-thon.com, if you like looking such things up. Almost everyone was full of truly thoughtful questions, and I’ve never had such a day’s work in my life (nice if you can get it, as Billie Holliday sang… I used to hum that after punching the time clock at the Lusty Lady, on my way to the booth to masturbate all day). Substantive discourse about masturbation with the press! Well, how about that?
This love fest was interrupted occasionally by ‘Thon participants who came over to chat. Some were hijacked into press interviews themselves, some didn’t want to be put in the spotlight. Almost everyone said nice things about us bringing the ‘Thon to London, and the only real complaints we registered seemed to do with overcrowdedness and the fact that some of the straight fellows seemed to think there were not enough good-looking women to stare at. We pointed out that none of the pr had promised such a thing, and that in fact, if visual stimulation was important to them, the stack of Razzles was righton that table there.
Meanwhile the Marie Stopes gang, primary party staff, worked like troupers to get the people in the door and get them into the rooms where they could get themselves off. They did a completely professional and lovely job, even when Liz came out with her camera and bathed them in the glare of future minor celebrity. And they had even brought a Marie Stopes counselor, a lovely older lady who was on hand just in case the stress of public masturbation became too much and someone broke down. That did not appear to be a danger, so after several hours (and a few of her own press interviews), she went home.
Karin, GV publicist extraordinaire, had been working out some sort of press link with a Brit band who’d done a remake of the Good Vibrations song and wanted to sing it at the Masturbate-a-Thon. While this had seemed like a good idea when they cooked it up, there was some complicated TV reason why it couldn’t happen — but the whole band, Anti-Product, DID show up and hang around for a while, in their punky glammy band drag: they were quite fetching, and made me for a moment, before I realized who they were, believe that London’s old punk scene had turned out to masturbate. (There was one bisexual Brit with a mohawk in attendance, so perhaps I could be forgiven for thinking momentarily that we’d entered a time warp.)
Unbelievably, when the press finally filtered away at 7 pm or so, the ‘Thon staff sent us away to eat some dinner! Gosh, what a civilized land. Nice place around the corner, I believe called The Well. Then back again to see the whole thing wind down, and this, of course, is one of the most exciting times at any Masturbate-a-Thon, because people stagger out from the crowd and announce how many orgasms they had, or how long they’d been at it. In this case we had a clear winner for the “Longest Time Masturbated: Male” category. A lovely young man stumbled out (“I feel a wee bit unsteady on me pins,” he said, or something to that effect), followed by Liz and her cameras, because he was the Winner, with six-plus hours of time… and, as it turned out, six orgasms to his credit! VERY impressive indeed; that latter is a new world Masturbate-a-Thon record. The Brits, it seems, are good with orgasms, because the “Most Orgasms: Female” record was set at this event too, by Ruth from Coventry, at 49 orgasms. (“I was going for 50, really,” she lamented. “I guess I shouldn’t have foold around this morning!”) Ruth also made a case for being the next Cadbury spokeswoman, because she had done the math with her orgasms and the number of calories they burned. At about 60 per, she figured, she was allowed to eat a BIG chocolate bar to offset her losses!
We’re still waiting to hear what the total financial take was; it is very possible there will be a world record set in that arena as well. Many ‘Thon attendees stated specifially that they had come to support Marie Stopes International; it is clearly a respected entity in London, and the success of the event has everything to do with how involved MSI was. And the excellent work of the Marie Stopes crowd also paid off with another record: Most Attendees at a Masturbate-a-Thon. 154 people came through the doors! Our SF record is more like 125.
As the participants melted into the night it was champagne all around for the staff, then off to bed: and the supreme irony of the Masturbate-a-Thon organizer, who at the end of a fine event is often too tired to wank.