Masturbation Myths #1: Hairy Palms
Masturbation has an image problem. For centuries, through whisper, rumor, and insinuation, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our favorite DIY activity is harming our mental and physical health. From hairy palms to criminal deviancy, masturbation is blamed for all manner of societal ills, and whenever we discuss it, it’s either as a punchline, or innuendo.
Why do we let this happen? Why does our personal pleasure attract so much social stigma? Why is masturbation, more than anything else, a lightning rod for moral prosecution?
May is International Masturbation Month and, like so many other worthy causes, it’s a shame that it’s necessary at all. The world would be a healthier place if we were more open and aligned with our biological impulses, and we’ve proved time and time again that this particular impulse, masturbation, is actually a benefit to mental and physical health. But that’s not enough. It seems that telling people ‘masturbation is ok’ is simply not effective.
So this month, we’re going to tackle some of the myths and taboos of masturbation head on. Ready? Good. Let’s do this.
DOES MASTURBATION GIVE YOU HAIRY PALMS?
No. Not under any circumstances. There are no follicles on the palms of the hands and, therefore, no hair. Even in the most extreme cases of the condition known as ‘hypertrichosis,’ or ‘werewolf syndrome,’ hair will not grow on the palms. In fact, it’s only been recorded once or twice in history, and even those records are dubious.
While it’s not unthinkable that certain medical or genetic conditions might cause the spontaneous growth of hair on the palms or soles of the feet, it’s so rare that it doesn’t bear serious consideration. It’s like saying ‘hairy teeth’ – teeth don’t have the ability to sprout hair, and neither do the palms. That’s just not the way things work.
SO WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
It’s hard to identify the first recorded mention of the whole hairy palms thing. In all likelihood, it emerged from the sense of shame and sinfulness associated with masturbation that was conditioned into boys in seminaries, in the course of their early religious instruction and in preparation for a life of abstinence.
Most illicit masturbation was likely to have taken place under the cover of night in such institutions, the darkness affording the ‘sinner’ some measure of privacy. To counteract this, a myth evolved that made the result of masturbation visible and identifiable: hairy palms. A young masturbator might be afraid to engage in ‘self-abuse’ in fear that spontaneous hair growth would be noticed – even if the act itself went unnoticed, punishment was still imminent. This had the added reinforcement that, since none of the boys around you had hairy palms, they were all able to resist masturbatory urges and you were not – therefore compounding the sense of shame and embarrassment. Very tragic for the boys, very useful for a totalitarian system of governance.
Celebrate Masturbation Month in style.
Read about other masturbation myths:
So what about you? What’s the craziest masturbation myth you’ve ever heard? Leave it in the comments…
Katy Thorn is a post-grad writer with a passion for writing about sex, sexuality, and all things rated R. She received her degree in Women’s Studies with a focus in Intersectionality at the University of California, Berkeley (Go Bears!). She has a cat named Yoko, drinks too much black coffee, and hates writing bios.