How to masturbate in Campbelltown
By: Candy Bowers
Cheap instant coffee, Weet-Bix, Coles-brand full-cream milk and sweetener for Mum; oats, expensive paleo mix and banana for me.
“And how many men have you had?” Mum blurts out over breakfast.
I assume my request for privacy before 9am and the faint buzzing sound coming from my room alongside Kanye’s latest album in the mornings has led to this interrogation… Oh and that dick pic that briefly flashed across my phone when I was showing her a reel on Instagram.
“Why are you only counting the men, Mum?” I laugh. “I’m not going to give you a number, Lynn.”
Her eyes bulge. “You should have gotten married and had children.” She looks at her bowl. “Children would have made your life-”
I interrupt. “How many hetero relationships are still together in this family?”
Mum’s twice-divorced hand shakily moves towards her breakfast. Her bowl, her mouth and her spoon are just centimetres apart and still I clench wondering if the mush will make it.
“Not many,” she replies, grimacing.
The pain could be her back, her hip, her infection due to a poorly inserted
catheter, her frozen shoulders, her childless daughter or any combination.
“You know what I wish for the women in this family, before they die?” I shouldn’t have said “before they die” but I speak my subtext, a fearful child watching their greatest love deteriorating in front of their eyes. “Excellent orgasms.”
“Wonderful, deep, loving, freeing, fucking divine, awesome orgasms. You don’t even need a partner for that, Mum.”
She snorts and takes the last shaky spoon of Weet-Bix to her lips; she can’t move her arms without great pain.
“Well, I guess it’s too late for me then.”
All images by: Jessica D’Cruze
Some dos and don’ts on how to masturbate while waiting out Covid-19 in your childhood home during a stinking hot January, with an ailing mother who is growing increasingly disabled in every sense except her hearing:
- DO establish boundaries, i.e. no busting into the guest room before 9am.
- DON’T expect these boundaries to be adhered to.
- DO ensure a quick hidey-hole for your vibrators in case your roommate busts in unannounced before 9am (I suggest a double pillowcase).
- DON’T forget to thoroughly wash your hands after said roommate indicates the need for a back rub using Tiger Balm or Vicks VapoRub, just in case you decide to finish your original task (unless you’re into that sensation).
- DO try to find a loud electric toothbrush so afternoon releases can occur without too much inquiry.
- DON’T forget to drop into conversation that you’ve become very conscious about your dental hygiene in recent times.
- DO play loud music sporadically throughout the day so the link between masturbating and playing music isn’t so obvious.
- DON’T focus too much on your location or who your roommate is.
- DO remember that you’re an adult who has permission to pleasure themselves and relieve stress even if the guest room is your childhood bedroom and your roommate is your mum.
I had planned to visit Campbelltown for two weeks in mid-January, but the shock death of a friend from high school brought me to Sydney a month earlier than expected. I shifted my dates so I could stay for an extra week – and then Mum and I contracted Covid.
Five weeks in my mother’s house. Five weeks in the house I lived in from my last year of primary school until my last year of high school. I hadn’t been in my family home for more than a weekend in over 20 years. It was fucking surreal.
The virus hit me pretty hard; my throat was on fire and the fever consumed my body whole. I slept and sweated through my sheets for 48 hours before I heard Mum coughing.
On the day I sent her to hospital, she busted into my room and lay down next to me. She was burning hot. I jumped up, drenched a towel in cold water and lay it over her body. Her oxygen dropped.
I texted a mate who had been working with elderly folks throughout the pandemic for advice and then rang the Covid-19 hotline for more advice, while getting Mum iced water, ibuprofen and Strepsils.
When I came back into the room, she’d managed to stack my pillows under her head and my dildo was hanging out of the pillowcase, about an inch from her temple. I was filled with a visceral mix of horror, deep shame and ticklish glee.
A question shot into my mind like an enflamed arrow cutting through the battlefield: has my mother ever had an orgasm? The conversation over breakfast whizzed through me and a deep sadness arose.
I had been so worried about giving my mum Covid that I did rapid antigen tests every other day, even if I’d just gone for a walk. I had been very careful, but not careful enough.
Anxious, afraid and feverish, I waited on hold for an ambulance, catastrophising and fixated on this new revelation. The intersection of the medical and metaphysical gave me the sensation of lava – volcanic lava rising up to my chin.
A vague memory of reading a page from a book on her bedside table when I was about 13 infiltrated my thoughts.
“He threw her onto the sheepskin rug and thrust his maleness deep into her…”
It was a passage from a Mills & Boon romance novel and it sounded unpleasant and dangerous to me at the time.
My mum was a voracious consumer of revamped early ’90s soft porn and the whole back wall of our garage – I’m talking ceiling to floor – held volumes of Mills & Boon novels. A multitude of sensations rocked through my nervous system that morning.
“Fuck you, Candice.”
For the record, my mother did not want to go to hospital. When the paramedics arrived, she was cursing me out pretty bad but swung into the voice she uses for white people quite swiftly as they asked her questions and took her vitals.
The paramedics were dressed in low-key hazmat suits and I stayed at a distance, listening in the hallway, as instructed. Two young, seemingly white Aussie kids in their mid-to-late twenties strolled into Mum’s bedroom. The male-presenting person did all the talking. He kept using the phrase “my dear” and his arrogance switched a knot in my gut.
“I don’t think your stats are too bad, my dear. If we take you to hospital, they’ll just send you back, my dear.”
He went on to say that Covid-19 wasn’t as deadly as folks were making out – that pneumonia had taken more lives and that only people with underlying issues were at risk.
“Which is my mum, dude,” I squawked from the hall, that goddam Covid throat making me sound extra emotional. “Your argument for NOT taking her doesn’t take into account her osteoarthritis, diabetes, bowel dysfunction… shall I go on?”
I lost my shit, y’all. Then I cried on the female-presenting paramedic’s hazmat shoulder in the kitchen. Little did she know that it wasn’t just the virus blowing my adrenals to smithereens; I was shook by the thought that Mum might die without having had an orgasm.
Most people never want to think about their parents having sex, let alone masturbating, let alone orgasming. In this moment it was all I could think about. The absence of sensual pleasure in a body that had endured so much pain hit hard.
When I was in my twenties, I found out that Germaine Greer and Maya Angelou were married to the same person at different times in their lives – a white man named Paul du Feu. He was a Welsh carpenter who shot a centrefold for British Cosmopolitan and he was pretty dang sexy. My young heart was content thinking about Maya Angelou with a good lover, forget the rest… get it, mama.
Later, when I read Audre Lorde’s work, all I wanted was to find Black queer love and live in it forever. Alice Walker and Tracy Chapman type love, Lena Waithe and Alana Mayo type love, Niecy Nash and Jessica Betts type love. Like the majority of people socialised as women, let alone coloured girls from conservative South African households, it took me a minute to discover that my orgasm belonged to me.
There were almost zero depictions of sexual Black women on Aussie TV when I was growing up. There was Grace Jones, and maybe Jennifer Beals, but nothing consistent, no Black Sex in the City, no Black Samantha.
I’d never had a partner who could satiate me. I thought there was something wrong with me. I asked different doctors if I was dysfunctional, whispering, “Am I a nympho?”
“You like sex. In fact, you love sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that!” my cousin Judith told me. Judith lived in the Caribbean, she was in her fifties, and she was the first person I knew who practiced ethical non-monogamy. “Find different playmates and play with yourself, Candy.”
My first vibrator changed my life. I took myself to the highest heights, multiple little deaths, slow gratification to reincarnation. My sexual imagination and sensual intelligence circled in spirals of self-love, softness and fire. Satisfaction was sweet and so fucking powerful.
Mum was admitted to hospital, and she stayed for eight days. I found myself in my mother’s home, alone… and… well, it had been a really stressful week.
The marathon started with a daydream about a guy at Campbelltown Bunnings I’d clocked before I got sick. Maybe non-binary? Curly hair, spacers in their ears, tanned.
Then the older masc Lebanese lesbian (I’m guessing) who served me at the coffee shop and probably gave me Covid. Mum’s gardener – I hadn’t seen him at all, no idea how he looked, but I pretended he looked like Pharrell. Pharrell with an Aussie accent.
The biracial couple on Feeld who disappeared after I said I got Covid. The depressed filmmaker with the massive cock. The Filipina woman with the heavy lashes at the pharmacy. The bogan white kid with a mullet and tattoos on the train.
Teyana Taylor in Kanye’s “Fade” video clip. Teyana Taylor’s husband. Teyana Taylor’s husband’s basketball team, but I benched the white guy. The clean-cut Italian boy who asked to see my asshole on Snapchat. Jessica Betts. Jemaine Clement. Tessa Thompson. Black men eating pussy on the internet. Lesbian orgies. Erika Lust movies.
I rode out the virus alone in my mother’s home with two sex toys, a tonne of vitamins, Hydralyte icy poles and my iPhone. I also decluttered her linen cupboard (50kg to charity, 50kg to recycling and 50kg kept) – I’d say along with Mills & Boon my mum survived her sexless marriages with a fierce tablecloth fetish.
It’s possible that more orgasms happened in that house in the month of January 2022 than in the 32 years Mum has lived there.
I hadn’t totally understood how important self-care and pleasure are to me until this brutal trip. I’ll say this, particularly to people who have been socialised as women, brown and Black-skinned, possibly living in the suburbs, possibly in monogamous relationships, possibly heterosexual: whatever you do, don’t rely on your partner for pleasure, and don’t wait another second.
Your body holds myriad soulful, loving, earth-shattering orgasms. Explore yourself by yourself, with yourself, for yourself. Masturbate for fun, masturbate for stress relief, masturbate for mental health, masturbate for connection, masturbate for no good reason – just please masturbate often.
Even if you’re a grown-ass woman visiting your conservative South African mum in Western Sydney, you gotta masturbate. Release the oppressive sex-negative crap, gaffer tape the door shut if need be, lube up and love thy holy trinity: in the name of the clitoris, the vagina and the holy vulva – amen.
… And that’s how you masturbate in Campbelltown.
This article first appeared in Archer Magazine #17, the HOME issue.
Candy Bowers is an award-winning mischief-maker, writer, playwright, TV creator, actor, director and lyricist. Born of South African political refugees, she has created an extraordinary cross-disciplinary body of work that shakes and tickles audiences in equal measure. Host of the Multi-Hypho podcast, she is currently developing an original TV series, Bottlo2560, and writing her first feature film, Elastic Tribe.
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