In 2020, there aren’t too many things that are taboo to talk about, but masturbation is a topic that doesn’t get brought up very much – and if it does, it’s all a bit awkward. Yet references to self-love – just one of many euphemisms for the act you’ll read in this piece – date all the way back to The Bible. Here’s Genesis 38:9 – 10: “But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.” Oh, Onan. We hope he at least cleaned up after himself. Meanwhile, with Portnoy’s Complaint, which was released in 1969, Philip Roth wrote an entire novel based around masturbation.
Historically, there are a handful (you’re welcome) of songs about going it alone. My Dingaling – written by Dave Bartholomew and turned into a hit by Chuck Berry – is all about playing with your, er, dingaling. And – of course – Blister In The Sun by The Violent Femmes is one of the more famous songs about wanking, even if frontman Gordon Gano has denied that’s what it’s about. More recently, actress/popstar Hailee Steinfeld sang about the many ways she pleasures herself, while The Pussycat Dolls, P!nk and Britney Spears have all penned odes to everyone’s favourite solo occupation.
Here’s a list of the best rock songs about doing it yourself.
Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (1973)
As one of the world’s original and most beloved shock rockers, Alice Cooper has sung about a variety of distasteful acts, including having his way with corpses on I Love The Dead, from 1973’s Billion Dollar Babies. A little more normal than that – but not much – is this track from his band’s final album of the same name, which was also released a little earlier in 1973. ‘Well, I must have come to that crazy age / Where everything is hot,’ he sings, ‘’Cause I don’t know if the things I’m thinking / Are normal thoughts or not.’ Judging from Alice’s other songs, probably not.
The Vapors – Turning Japanese (1980)
Despite the significantly racist overtones of the phrase ‘turning Japanese’ – which refers to somebody squinting as they have an orgasm – this 1980 hit by English new wave punks The Vapors actually did pretty well in Japan, as well as hitting the top spot in Australia and Number Three on the UK singles chart. That phrase isn’t the only disturbing thing about the song, however. Its lyrics point out that the protagonist is also in a cell, and he’d like a doctor to take your picture so he could look at you from the inside. Just because masturbation is healthy doesn’t mean all wankers are.
Dinosaur Jr. – Severed Lips (1985)
Slacker alt-rockers Dinosaur Jr. might not seem like the types to sing about strangling the Cyclops, but this song just goes to show that nobody’s immune to temptation. Yet this track – sung by J. Mascis many moons before he had his distinctive white flowing locks – also goes one step further by bringing an, er, accomplice into the equation. ‘I never knew a rubber doll / Would be so hard to please,’ he sings. But at least there’s an upside: ‘You’re better than my pillow / ’Cause you don’t stain so easily.’ And yes, having sex with a blow-up doll is still having sex alone, which is technically masturbation. Don’t think we didn’t think about that. We did. And we wish we hadn’t.
Nirvana – Spank Thru (1988)
While this Nirvana track, originally released on Sub Pop’s 1988 compilation album Sub Pop 200, contains some typically abstract Cobainisms lyrically – ‘All the flowers have gingivitis,’ for example – there are others that are clearly about slapping the ham. ‘I can feel it, I can hold it, I can rub it, I can shape it,’ sings Kurt, and while he could feasibly be talking about pottery, he quickly goes on to elucidate, ‘I can mould it, I can cut it, I can taste it, I can spank it / Beat it, masturbate it.’ The title is a bit of a giveaway, too, isn’t it?
Buzzcocks – Orgasm Addict (1977)
This anthem by the Buzzcocks is a truly quintessential anthem about jerkin’ the gherkin, mainly because it perfectly captures the essence of being a horny teenager. Well, a horny teenager before high speed internet and the invention of cell phones, anyway. ‘Sneaking in the back door with dirty magazines,’ the late Pete Shelley first sang back in 1977. ‘Now your mother wants to know ’bout all those stains on your jeans / You’re an orgasm addict.’ It’s catchy new wave punk at its finest, though it all gets a bit dark by the end: ‘It’s a labor of love fucking yourself to death.’
Green Day – Longview (1994)
Do anything for long enough and it becomes a bit boring. Tedious. Unfulfilling. According to this classic Green Day hit from 1994’s game-changing Dookie, that even extends to masturbation. It starts off well enough – ‘Bite my lip and close my eyes / Take me away to paradise’ – but then things immediately take a turn for the awful. ‘I’m so damn bored, I’m going blind / And I smell like shit,’ sings Billie Joe Armstrong. The abject drudgery of the situation should be clear, but just in case Billie Joe spells it out a bit later: ‘When masturbation’s lost its fun / You’re fucking lonely.’ Ain’t that the truth.
Blink-182 – M+Ms (1995)
blink-182 have sung plenty of scatological and deliberately dumbass lyrics; hell, they even made a masturbation pun with the title of their fourth album, 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. But it’s this track, sung by Mark Hoppus on their 1995 debut Cheshire Cat, that’s got the most overt reference to the deed. ‘My love life was getting so bland,’ he sings. ‘There are only so many ways I can make love with my hand.’ Similar to Billie Joe’s lament in Longview, however, the over-honking of his own horn leads Mark to an existential crisis. ‘Sometimes it makes me want to laugh,’ he sings. ‘Sometimes I want to take my toaster in the bath.’ Yeesh, dude.
A Perfect Circle – Thinking Of You (2000)
This A Perfect Circle ode to the art of Onanism not only manages to utilise the word ‘tugging’, but also has a breakdown during which Maynard James Keenan’s voice makes it sound like he’s actually jerking off. If that’s not disturbing enough, the official video tells a violent and depraved story set in a female maximum security prison that features, among many other things, a group of minimally-attired prisoners breaking out and a cop spitting out a wad of (computerised) ejaculate onto the camera. Oh, and a dildo called The Golden Rod. It’s more comedic than pornographic, but it certainly rubs home the subject of the song.
Peaches – Diddle My Skittle (2002)
Having just complained about the lack of rock songs about masturbation by female artists, it only makes sense to include this track by everyone’s favourite sexually-liberated electronic musician/performance artist Peaches. Because of course she’s written about the topic. This minimally industrial track almost sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song in places, but we doubt Trent Reznor would ever use a euphemism like ‘diddle my skittle’ (which is a shame, because it’s one of the better ones out there). Kudos to Peaches for being unafraid to be open and honest about a normal part of her sexuality.
Mindless Self Indulgence – Capitol P (2003)
The angular, jerky rhythms of this track by New York electropunkers Mindless Self Indulgence are odd in their own right, but it’s the lyrics that really turn its depraved meat-beating beats into something truly, well, gross. Frontman Jimmy Urine sings, ‘I don’t want to be the one / Who’s stuck with me when I whip my meat out / Trapped in the room when I start to beat it.’ That’s not all, though: ‘I don’t want to be the one / Who’s touching me when I whip my meat out / Juggling my balls and I start to get a beat down.’ Safe to say the feeling is mutual, Jimmy dude.
The Darkness – Holding My Own (2003)
Is it any surprise that a band who wrote a festive tune called Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) have also written a track about knocking one out? Not so much, and that’s exactly what The Darkness did with Holding My Own. It’s not particularly explicit, but that’s because the Lowestoft band are big fans of the double-entendre. And so this epic rock ballad sees Justin Hawkins sing lines about, well, holding his own and taking matters into his own hands, all delivered in his distinctive high-pitched falsetto.
The Donnas – Dancing With Myself (2004)
Yes, we know this is a Billy Idol cover. But there’s a noticeable lack of songs in the rock world – as opposed to the pop/hip-hop worlds – sung by women about masturbating. But they do it too, you know! So for that very reason, this cover beats out the original. Because when he wrote this song, Billy Idol wasn’t actually talking about dancing, and The Donnas aren’t either. After all, this is a band who sent out branded condom packets with promo copies of their 2002 album Spend The Night. They know exactly what this song is about, and it’s a pretty great cover, as well.
Read this next:
Tom DeLonge has shared some not-very-PG post-chemotherapy advice he’s given to his former blink-182 bandmate Mark Hoppus…
Biffy Clyro’s new single A Hunger In Your Haunt is described by Simon Neil as “an expression of pure frustration” and “a self-motivating mantra”.