May is National Masturbation Month, and we’re celebrating with Feeling Yourself, a series exploring the finer points of self-pleasure.
The earliest definition of is from March 2003. The entry refers to it as “SpankBank” as if it were a Bank of America competitor, and defines it as “the collection of images, thoughts, dreams, and desires one conjures to heighten arousal in order to achieve climax; In regards to Self Gratification/Masturbation.”
Almost two decades later, it’s difficult to conceptualize the world in 2003. For one thing, I was nine years old. But it was society before Facebook (meaning pre-social media as we know) and before the iPhone — but also pre-MindGeek, the and other mainstream tube sites.
While today there are seemingly endless ways to consume porn — from Pornhub to — spank banks are still alive and well and being compiled in all sorts of creative ways. From alt Twitters to an entirely separate device, seven people graciously told me about the digital homes for their masturbation fodder.
The dirty side of Twitter
Multiple people told me about their penchant for keeping alt Twitter accounts solely for the purpose of browsing porn. Here I was, thinking that alt Twitters were just for about people who pissed you off.
But no — separate, anonymous Twitter accounts are some people’s way of saving porn and following their favorite creators. While three people spoke to me about this on the record, several others also have sung the praises of such a Twitter account.
James, who usually lives in Toronto but is social distancing in their hometown of Sudbury, Ontario along with his family, has had an alt Twitter for two years. He started it as a refuge from Tumblr, which .
James told me that creating the account was “a reaction to Tumblr very strictly enforcing a no adult content rule, which as a lot of those rules do, affected queer people and sex workers the most, and resulted in most of those profile being flagged or deleted, or their content being hidden.”
James pointed out that if you search on Twitter, many sex workers’ accounts have in their bios. He said he only follows queer creators on his alt, and uses it to masturbate a few times a week — or sometimes every day “if the mood strikes.”
Ana, a woman in Miami, started her alt Twitter this year. She had been looking up porn on her regular Twitter account but, as she told me, it left her feeling “kinda dirty.” Having a separate account gives her more freedom to deep dive into porn Twitter.
Oscar, a man in South Asia, told me that Twitter is a newfound love — and we actually corresponded via DM on his account. He’s able to like and retweet content from “dirty accounts,” as he referred to them.
“Masturbating has been a helpful stress reliever.”
For James, the pandemic hasn’t changed his masturbating habits too much. He usually masturbated early mornings or late nights anyway. “I am very lucky in that I’m able to work from home, so I’m occupied during the day doing that,” he said. “I also am staying with family during this time, and we get along well, so not hiding away when I’m not working.”
Ana, however, said that quarantine had definitely changed her habits, given that masturbation helps her sleep in these stressful times. “Even tho I work from home, work has been a lot more stressful,” she said via Facebook messenger. “So masturbating has been a helpful stress reliever.”
“I browse through my alt Twitter, find something to watch. And masturbate,” she said. “Then I sleep so well.”
Oscar also said he’s been masturbating more currently — since he has more free time.
Masturbating to celebrities and former flings
While alt Twitter accounts are popular, some people are more specific in their spank bank preferences.
Take Corinna, a woman living in Brussels. Growing up in a religious household led her to be creative when it came to finding masturbation fodder, and her material of choice is fan-fiction, specifically featuring Larry Stylinson, the mash-up couple name for One Direction members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.
Corinna bookmarks stories on fan-fiction site , or downloads them onto her Kindle. She reads the same stories (commonly abbreviated to “fic”) for comfort and speed, she told me, but if she has some hours to spare she’ll get into a new fic and “read 300 pages at once.”
For her, the more she dates the less fan-fiction she reads; given that she was single prior to the pandemic, she said her habits haven’t changed much.
While Corinna gets off on reading about ultra-famous boy band members, a New York City woman who wished to remain anonymous told me her spank bank is a folder of conversation screenshots. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this folder started because some screenshots have been deleted, she guessed she’s had it for a couple of years now.
The screenshots are mostly sexts that she’s had with former lovers, though one person is someone she met through an app that she never met in-person. When I asked her if her habits have changed given the pandemic — especially because she’s in New York, the American epicenter of the crisis — she sent me this meme:
“This is me,” she said. “I also reconnected with an ex for this purpose which has been fun.”
A spank bank of one’s own
Patrick, a 26-year-old in Jersey City, told me that he has three separate “banks”: the app, which at first glance is just a calculator app but is a password-protected photo vault. The second is the hidden album on his phone. “I used [Calculator#] for a while, but ran out of storage in the free version,” Patrick told me. “Now I just ‘hide’ photos on my iPhone.”
Patrick’s third bank? Evernote. “It’s just a list of URLs to porn videos that I found that I liked,” he said. “Kind of like a bookmarks page.”
Patrick has been keeping these “banks” for four years, starting when a girlfriend sent nudes and he needed a place to store them, but didn’t want to keep them in his phone’s usual photo album. “Didn’t want them to pop up on my gallery when I’m trying to show friend vacation photos,” he said. Then he started saving gifs on the hidden folder when he discovered Reddit was a treasure trove of porn.
The hidden folder on his iPhone is Patrick’s most-used bank, given that he can’t update Calculator# anymore and he doesn’t update the Evernote bookmarks list often.
While Patrick looks at porn more often during the pandemic given that other aspects of his life are on hold, he hasn’t been masturbating more. “I’ve been living with my parents to get out of my apartment building,” he said, “so it’s not the most masturbation-friendly environment.”
Also, the pandemic isn’t exactly sexy. “This whole thing has been a real bummer on my sex drive,” he said. Patrick’s not alone; while some people find in these times, it’s also completely normal for desire to plunge.
And Patrick’s not the only person I spoke to who had similar sentiments. A man in Los Angeles who asked to remain anonymous told me that sometimes, as of late, he can’t finish. “I had not thought of it as quarantine related but now that you ask – I think it may be related,” he said via Twitter DM.
“This iPad is not synced to my cloud or my Apple username, so it’s literally just sitting there connected to WiFi and that’s the only use it gets.”
Six months ago, before the coronavirus took hold, the LA resident went a step beyond the others and bought a separate iPad specifically for housing porn. The purpose is to keep porn — lots of video tabs — separate from work and family chats and emails. “The reason I prefer this is because it prevents me from making mistakes,” he said. “This iPad is not synced to my cloud or my Apple username, so it’s literally just sitting there connected to WiFi and that’s the only use it gets.”
“Whenever I want to masturbate, I know it’s there,” he continued, “and it allows me to keep my favorite videos in different tabs so I don’t have to search for them, but also if I want to browse for new ones – I can just open another tab.”
Not only does having a separate, porn-specific device allow him to keep it separate from work and family, but he said it also keeps him productive. “I don’t doze off during the day looking at adult content in the office, or on breaks or anything like that,” he said. “I know that if I want to do it – I have to wait until the end of my day to get to my Ipad and close my door.”
Whether it’s an alt Twitter, a password-protected app, or a fresh iPad, it’s clear that one’s spank bank choices are individual and catered to one’s specific needs and tastes. Even during a pandemic, the 17-year-old Urban Dictionary entry remains relevant.