CAMBRIDGE, MA—Unveiling what may be the most comprehensive guide to socially responsible self-pleasure ever published, a group of leading ethicists released Monday its list of things that are acceptable to masturbate to.
The 2011 edition of the Standards and Values in Autoerotic Practices is the first revision in 17 years of the venerable reference used to determine what images and thoughts are appropriate stimuli for bringing oneself to orgasm.
"This list recognizes our changing cultural attitudes and offers an ethical framework to address all aspects of the current masturbatory climate," said Harvard University philosophy professor Greg Hawkins, the publication's lead editor. "Now, when pleasuring themselves, Americans can determine whether to proceed with a clear conscience, or recoil in self-disgust."
Many changes reflect new realities posed by the Internet, which was barely mentioned in the last edition of the SVAP. For example, the revised guide declares it "permissible" to reach climax while perusing photos from the Facebook profile of a coworker or a spouse's friend; however, masturbating to online hidden-camera videos of a woman using a tanning bed is deemed "troubling, and unfit for self-gratification."
Other revisions simply take into account the passage of time, with guidelines now declaring it acceptable to "freely touch oneself" when thinking about or viewing images of Natalie Portman, a practice that had been explicitly prohibited under rules written in 1994, when the actress was 12 years old.
"And that goes for men and women both, because one of our top priorities this time was to eliminate all bias against homosexual impulses," Hawkins said of the 2011 edition, which for the first time ranks masturbating to a member of the same sex as "entirely ethical." "Arousing himself with thoughts of a naked Jon Hamm brushing past him in a locker room is every man's moral right."
The revised list of onanism-appropriate subjects also includes friends' mothers, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, pre- and post-op transsexuals, the late actor Heath Ledger (with the firm caveat that he only be masturbated to as a living person), and Ohio resident Adam Clemons, who was in terrible shape back in the '90s, but has, according to ethicists, "really pulled himself together nicely."
The new SVAP also resolves a pair of longstanding debates by determining that it is weird, but not unethical, to masturbate to one's own reflection in a full-length mirror, and that it is also fine to masturbate to the mentally challenged—a reversal of previous guidelines and an affirmation that all persons may provide erotic inspiration, regardless of cognitive capacity.
For the 23rd consecutive edition, masturbating to a litter of newborn puppies is classified as "wrong, wrong, wrong."
Since its first publication in 1795, which counseled "gentlemen of quality to grasp themselves only when moved by the most refined and upright appreciation of a woman's figure," Standards and Values in Autoerotic Practices has often been accused of being incomplete. Even after the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s, during which the book quadrupled in length, many still argue it is still inadequate.
"This new list may be an improvement, but it is still mystifyingly silent on such mainstays as nannies, shoes, and the scent of a cousin's panties," Amherst College ethicist Joshua McBride said. "Another edition and another slap in the face to people who enjoy grinding against stuffed animals."
However, those whose preferred masturbatory stimulus appeared on the list said they were grateful to have the validation they had long sought.
"You think you're always going to feel like a deviant for rubbing one out while you fantasize about being forced to drink your own breast milk by your brother-in-law," Phoenix resident Denise Berger said. "But then, all of a sudden, you're a decent person. See, it's right there on page 296."
The SVAP's editors acknowledged that their endeavor will likely always remain unfinished, since people have a near infinite capacity for finding new ways to excite themselves while manipulating their genitalia for self-pleasure.
"No doubt, another edition will always be required," Professor Hawkins said. "The human imagination won't let us rest very long."
"But, honestly, I'm just happy I finally got 'amputee' in there," Hawkins added. "You have no idea."