‘I Touch Myself’: An Intimate History Of Songs About Masturbation

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It was 25 years ago that Australia’s Divinyls released their tongue-in-cheek classic single “I Touch Myself,” one of the most famous and least subtle songs about self-love. It’s been used countless times in media and played even more behind the locked doors of many a listener. We owe so much to these brave Aussies, particularly fearless frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett who sadly passed away in 2013. But while that song is certainly stark in its imagery, it’s not the only song to discuss the topic. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more famous pop songs to focus on the subject of masturbation. Note: This is far from a complete list, because if we mentioned every song to broach this topic, we’d be here all day. And I’m guessing some us have better things to do…

The Who – “Pictures of Lily”

By the time this song came out in 1968, The Who had already explored sexually suggestive themes on tracks like “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand,” and their first rock opera, “A Quick One While He’s Away.” This track, from Magic Bus  however, was their first song to explore the theme of self-exploration. The song tells the story of a young man who has many sleepless nights, and finds the cure when his father gives him several pictures of a woman named Lily. It’s not hard to figure out where things are headed here. The song has a sad twist when our protagonist finds out that Lily has actually been dead since 1929. Oh well, at least he’ll still have the pictures.

Billy Joel – “Captain Jack”

For those who dismiss Billy Joel as uncool offhand, this song is a major reason to give him a bit more consideration, as it’s one of the most harsh character studies you’ll ever hear. The song focuses on a lonely young man who escapes into alcoholism to avoid confronting his isolation (the “Jack” of the title refers to Jack Daniel’s), and the point is really driven home with the line “your sister’s gone/she’s on a date/and you just sit home and masturbate.” While many songs celebrate the activity, this one presents it as a hopeless act of desperation.

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