On Sept. 19, when Vice reported that that New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin had been suspended for exposing himself on a Zoom call, Twitter flew into a frenzy. Amid relentlessly bad news, "Zoom Dick!" was the episode of 2020 many never saw coming.
The group chats, of course, blew up. Some gawked at the audacity. Others were impressed that this hadn't happened already. ("Why did we think a screen would be enough to stop men from being gross?") Still others had questions about the New Yorker senior staffer election simulation during which The Incident took place. ("How was Toobin 'The Courts'? The Courts comprise thousands of people.") But the prevailing question was: Are men just masturbating through all of their Zoom calls???
I do not know, but the assumption that this might be a uniquely male form of multitasking made me want to test it. Is this something only a man would do, or in these uncertain times, are women are doing it, too?
It took me 15 minutes to find three women who do masturbate during the work-from-home day but do not masturbate while on their video calls.
"Working from home gives you so much flexibility."
Melissa, a 33-year-old recruiter who worked remotely for the first three months of the pandemic, found that being at home put her in the right mindset for a mid-day solo quickie. "Working from home gives you so much flexibility," Melissa tells Bustle. "I can get away with masturbating if I have 30 minutes between Zoom calls."
For Victoria, 26, a writer based in New York City, moving back in with her parents to quarantine meant a lot more free time for self-pleasure, but the opportunity came hand-in-hand with risk.
"I had a close call once — my sibling knocked on my door, and I had to shove my vibrator under my comforter," she tells Bustle. "He then came in and sat on it. He asked me what it was, and I told him not to look because it was a surprise."
Despite the constant threat of intrusion, Victoria says that masturbating is an exciting addition to her weekly 9 to 5. "I'm not used to having all this time at home, so I get to the urge to just go for it," she says.
Carrie, 25, a consultant in Washington D.C., says that mid-day masturbation is one of her only healthy escapes from pandemic- and election-induced anxiety. "I masturbate constantly now," she tells Bustle. "It's either take a masturbation break mid-day or drink wine later at night until I can fall asleep. At least this way, I won't kill my liver."
"At least this way, I won't kill my liver."
Of course, all three women take steps to keep their mid-day pick-me-up private from co-workers who are one click away. For Melissa, that means remembering to keep her vibrators out of the camera's view. For Victoria, it's investing in quiet vibrators, as well as toys that look less obviously sexual. But that doesn't mean they haven't had close calls.
"I was running late to a Zoom meeting and almost turned on my video camera while I was still naked," Carrie says. "With one wrong click, I could have ended my career."
So, why didn't she? The stress of work snapped her back to reality in the nick of time. Even working from home, Carrie says, "My job is still always at the back of my mind." When you have that internal vigilance, she says, "I can masturbate anytime, with no qualms."
Preliminary finding: Women are also masturbating throughout the Zoom day! They're just smarter about it.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.