Elena Scotti/FUSION

Handjobs have a bad reputation. They’re considered a bottom-of-the-barrel sex act, a last-resort option, an activity only suitable for precocious eighth graders and cripplingly inexperienced adults. The culture has spoken, and the verdict is in: Handjobs suck.

I'm on a mission to change that.

I’m a bit of a handjob evangelist. Well, let me back up a bit: First and foremost, I’m a sex educator. My primary focus is pleasure-oriented, queer-inclusive sex ed for grown-ups—moving beyond putting condoms on bananas and talking about the nuts and bolts of screwing. This week, at Brooklyn's Amos Eno Gallery, I'm even offering a pleasure-oriented, queer-inclusive handjob workshop as part of a larger exhibit on the many wonderful uses of hands—and hopefully it won't be my last educational effort regarding the act.

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Allow me to let you in on one of the most puzzling ironies I’ve encountered in my years of experience as a sex educator. Generally speaking, women report less frequent masturbation and feelings of sexual desire than men, while men and young boys are stereotyped as sex and masturbation fiends. And yet, when it comes to exploring pleasure and sensuality, you’re far more likely to find books, blog posts, and articles on how to get women off than how to get men off.

It’s a tired stereotype. Vaginas and vulvas are mysterious flowers with complex internal biology, while penises and testicles are external and straightforward. Advice for pleasuring a vagina could fill a book—and has, several times over. Advice for pleasuring a penis usually starts and ends with “touch it until it ejaculates.”

But there’s so much more to pleasuring a penis—and the person it belongs to. Just like vulvas and vaginas, penises and testicles are more and less sensitive in certain areas. Certain kinds of sensation may feel differently for different people—one person might like having their testicles lightly pinched, another rolled between the fingers, a third gently cupped, a fourth left alone entirely. And just like people with vaginas, people with penises need to be mentally stimulated to experience physiological pleasure. That means setting the right mood and tone, whether that involves candles and incense or teasing and dirty talk.

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It’s not just the handjob that’s been underrated. While the phrase “female masturbation” conjures images of a sexually liberated and cosmopolitan woman writhing glamorously with the assistance of a sleek purple vibrator, male masturbation is often viewed as a strictly utilitarian affair. Men of the world, I ask you: When is the last time you truly enjoyed a masturbation session, fully exploring your body and luxuriating in pleasure? When’s the last time you masturbated in the bath? Or with something other than your hand?

Chalk it up to bad design. A recent Motherboard feature makes the case that male sex toys lag behind female counterparts in mainstream appeal because of the uncanny valley effect of Real Dolls and TwerkBots—basically, these toys look too human. New York City-based sex educator Lucas Brooks (better known by his blog handle, The Intellectual Homosexual) agrees.

“I’ve spent five years in sex toy retail, and on a regular basis, I’ll hear a female customer purchasing a vibrator see the Fleshlights and say, ‘Ew, who would use that?’” Brooks explains. “Something that is representational of vulvas is less approachable and seems vulgar. But a fashionable, chic Lelo is aesthetically pleasing and abstract.”

Looking at a selection of sex toys for men can sometimes feel like looking into a serial killer’s closet: dismembered parts of women, garishly posed or decorated, leaving very little to the imagination. Autoblow’s Vaginal Beauty Contest, a search to find the “perfect vulva” to model for their next masturbatory aid, represents some of the most skin-crawlingly objectifying language associated with the male sex toy industry. And while manufacturers like Tenga and Doc Johnson have begun to offer abstract alternatives to ultrarealistic masturbation sleeves, many men aren’t even doing the research to find out.

“I often find that guys walk in with a very specific idea of what they want,” says Brooks, “and it’s usually something like a Fleshlight or a Pocket Pussy—something they’ve heard of before. They aren’t really educated about other options, what materials are out there, or different kinds of toys. I get a lot of questions about stuff like penis pumps, because guys see them in Austin Powers and want to know if they really work. But most guys, even really sexually experienced guys, don’t know much about what’s out there.”

As a feminist who is deeply aware of the orgasm gap and the very real struggles women face in pursuing sexual pleasure, it can feel a little silly to focus my education efforts on the pleasure of men, who are experiencing plenty of pleasure already. But encouraging men to explore their sexuality goes beyond better orgasms and healthier relationships—it’s also a matter of physical well-being.

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“Regular ejaculation contributes to prostate health,” says Brooks, “but frequent massage is the best way to keep your prostate healthy, and that does involve putting things in your butt.” Talk about a touchy subject. Anal may be on the menu for women, but for most straight men, there’s still a deep stigma around receptive anal play—a stigma that might be putting their health at risk. For men who are seriously shy about penetration, Brooks says that massaging the perineum (the space between the testicles and anus) is a pleasurable and effective way to maintain prostate health—but he recommends going the whole nine yards to really reap the benefits of prostate massage. Or, as he puts it, “Get yourself off and keep your prostate soft!”

Cancer prevention aside, exploring sex and pleasure beyond “touch your/your partner’s penis until it ejaculates” is an important part of a healthy sex life. So, people with penises of the world: Touch yourselves. Touch parts of yourself that aren’t your penis or testicles. Touch yourselves in ways you’ve never touched yourself before. And partners of people with penises, take the time to explore your partner’s body and treat their penis like the complex, unique, fascinating organ that it is.

And if you need some help getting started, come see me at Amos Eno or other events, and learn how to take a handjob from a sophomoric bore to a PhD master class of pleasure. There’s far more to a penis than “touch it until it ejaculates.” I want to educate the world on that, one flick of the wrist at a time.

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Haylin Belay is a NYC-based writer and sex educator exploring the intersection between identity, sexuality, and health.