Several weeks ago, Jeffrey Toobin was suspended from The New Yorker for masturbating on a Zoom call with his colleagues. He thought his camera was off. This was somewhat surprising, but much more surprising was the general reaction to this: men were horrified at what they felt was a massive overreaction to a situation that anyone could find themselves in. Their position is that everyone masturbates, and it wasn’t his intention for anyone to see him, and it was unfair to punish him for an accident. Furthermore, the new work-from-home movement is blurring the boundaries between work and home, and this is very confusing to men, who no longer know when and where they can masturbate.
I myself have been working from home for eight years now for a fully distributed company. I spend many hours a day on Zoom calls with my colleagues, and I have never once masturbated while at work. I am therefore uniquely positioned to help with these new etiquette questions. Here are some FAQs about situations you might find yourself in. I hope this is helpful:
Scenario: I am in my home office on a Zoom call. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: No. This is an easy one; this is where Toobin got confused, so you can learn from his example. We know that masturbating on Zoom calls is right out, regardless of the status of our camera and mic.
Scenario: I am on the phone with a colleague, but I am also on the toilet. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: You have already made a mistake. It is not appropriate to defecate while on the phone with a coworker; you ought not to have attempted to multitask in this particular way to begin with. You can’t do anything about that now, except possibly make an excuse and get off the phone, but you can definitely avoid further complicating the situation by also starting to masturbate. Do not masturbate now.
Scenario: I am working on my couch, but I am not actively on a call with any colleagues. I’m working on a document. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: This is a tricky one, because it introduces a third consideration! If you live alone, this might be an acceptable time to masturbate, although I would advise fully closing your work computer first just to be safe. However, you might live with other people. If your family is home, you should not masturbate in the living room. Go into a more private room and close the door.
Scenario: I am on a Zoom call with my colleagues, but I am also in bed. Bed is where sex usually happens, and I often use this same computer when I am masturbating. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: You have needlessly placed yourself in an especially confusing situation. It would be better not to take work calls in your bed in order to avoid further blurring boundaries that are already perplexing to you. Going forward, only do work calls when you are fully dressed and upright in any room other than your bedroom or bathroom. As to the masturbation question, one way to think about it is: if your colleagues were for some reason there in real life and sitting on your bed, would you masturbate then?
…Actually, don’t answer that question. Do not masturbate now.
Scenario: I am in the shower. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: You are most definitely not at work right now, and it is very unlikely that any of your colleagues are present, even virtually. It’s your time now, big boy — go crazy on yourself!
Scenario: I am at the grocery store, and I do not work at the grocery store. Is now an acceptable time to masturbate?
Recommendation: I see the confusion here, because you are correct that you are not at work! However, it is technically illegal to masturbate in public places (although enforcement varies). Do not masturbate now.
Scenario: I am currently in a situation that is not covered above. How do I know whether or not I may masturbate? Should I consult my HR rep?
Recommendation: No. You may not ask HR when it is appropriate for you to masturbate. I know this is confusing, because HR is very friendly and they are always saying that they are there to support you with whatever you need. However, when people speak in absolutes (regardless of the context or relationship), there are always implied boundaries around those absolutes that they expect you to understand intuitively. It is beyond the scope of this simple guide for me to detail all the many things it is not actually appropriate to expect HR to help you with, but just know that this is one of them.
Who can you ask then?
Previously, there was no one you could ask without being judged, but I am now pleased to offer my availability to consult on these matters! As a certified* expert in not masturbating at work, I will advise on any specific scenario for a flat fee of US$100.00 per scenario. I am also available to present on this topic via Zoom for your company or conference.
It is not acceptable to masturbate during my presentation.