The subject of Nicki Minaj’s new song, “Feeling Myself,” is not exactly hidden. Released last week, the collaboration with Beyoncé for Minaj’s upcoming record includes lyrics like: “Bitch, never left but I’m back at it/ And I’m feelin’ myself, jack rabbit/ Feelin’ myself, back off, cause I’m feelin’ myself, jack off/ Heard he thinks about me when he whacks off/ Whacks on? Wax off.”
Pop musicians have long been inspired by masturbation. Here’s a short, not-at-all comprehensive modern history of some of the highlights.
“Pictures of Lily” by the Who (1967)
A young man suffering from insomnia is given aid by his loving father in the form of pin-up photos of “Lily.” While the song does not mention masturbation explicitly, Pete Townsend has said that’s what it’s about. Things ultimately take a dark turn for our hero: “And then one day things weren’t quite so fine/ I fell in love with Lily/ I asked my dad where Lily I could find/ He said, ‘Son, now don’t be silly’/ ‘She’s been dead since 1929’/ Oh, how I cried that night.”
“Orgasm Addict” by the Buzzcocks (1977)
With a name like the “Buzzcocks,” this ‘70s British punk band pretty much had to go there. This particular song is quite clear that it’s not about partner sex: “Sneaking in the back door with dirty magazines/ Now your mother wants to know what all those stains on your jeans/ And you’re an orgasm addict, you’re an orgasm addict.” As with all Buzzcocks songs, this one is an undefeatable earworm that will plague you for days, but it’s worth it.
“Penetration in the Centerfold” by Devo (1979)
Devo had a habit of invoking masturbation in song lyrics like “Praying Hands” or even in the title of their biggest hit, “Whip It.” But this song, a B-side for “The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize,” skips subtlety altogether: “‘Cause there’s something in the middle/ And it’s giving me a rise/ There’s a girl in the middle/ With her finger in her gash.”
“Turning Japanese” by the Vapors (1980)
They can deny it all they want, but we all know that this one-hit wonder, with its bafflingly racist title, is about masturbating to memories of the girl who left you.
“Dancing With Myself” by Generation X/Billy Idol (1981)
Basically the same song as “Orgasm Addict,” except easier to dance to and not as funny.
“She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper (1984)
First entry by a woman, and the highest charting song about masturbation so far, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Notable for an overt reference to a gay men’s magazine (Blueboy)—Lauper outed the dirty secret of many straight women!—and the fact that my 7-year-old self would embarrass her parents by running around the house singing the song with absolutely no clue what it was about.
“Darling Nikki” by Prince (1984)
“I knew a girl named Nikki/ I guess you could say she was a sex fiend/ I met her in a hotel lobby/ Masturbating with a magazine.” This is the song that kicked off those parental advisory stickers and demands for record censorship, when Tipper Gore heard these lyrics on her kid’s copy of the Purple Rain soundtrack.
“I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls (1990)
This is the nadir of masturbation tunes, a song that was a huge hit despite having none of the wit or listenability of its masturbation-celebrating predecessors.
“Hands On Experience” and “Hands On Experience Part II” by the High and Mighty (1997 and 1999)
As thoroughly goofy as hip-hop can be about sex, songs about masturbation are surprisingly uncommon in this genre. One fun exception is “Hands On Experience” by the High and Mighty, with its sequel featuring Kool Keith and Jean Grae, the latter beating Nicki Minaj to the vibrator by 15 years: “Holding myself down when I’m on the clit/ I’ve got gadgets like I’m James Bond and shit.”