Earlier this week, in an interview with GQ, Sir Paul McCartney recalled a time he and fellow Beatle John Lennon beat off together in a dark room.
“What it was, was over at John’s house, and it was just a group of us,” he told reporter Chris Heath. “And instead of just getting roaring drunk and partying — I don’t even know if we were staying over or anything — we were all just in these chairs, and the lights were out, and somebody started masturbating, so we all did.”
Then, McCartney explained, the friends and collaborators shouted out names of hot babes to increase blood flow to the penis. “We were just, ‘Brigitte Bardot!’ ‘Whoo!’ and then everyone would thrash a bit more.”
The revelation that McCartney did more than just get by with a little help from his friends swept the internet. The following morning, “Beat the Meatles” was splashed across the front page of the New York Post. Page Six recounted the salacious events of that day’s hard night, when the “Fap Four” agreed quite literally to come together.
But of course, Paul and John are surely not the only straight-identifying male friends to simultaneously play with their yellow submarines. “I think we used to call it shaking hands with Abraham,” one honest soul whom I’ll call Theo told HuffPost. (I’ve changed all the names throughout, for obvious reasons.)
Theo’s group masturbatory experience occurred in a bygone era when “not all of us were fortunate enough to have Cinemax and so we had to take advantage of the people who did.” Cinemax, he clarified, became Skinemax after dark, and promised jerkworthy options like “Busty Cops” and “Sinful Obsession.”
Internet porn was not yet the accessible and astronomical encyclopedia of spank bank material it is today, and so a horny, growing boy like Theo was forced to venture into the depths of his friend’s parents’ house to catch a glimpse of the good stuff: boobs.
Theo set the scene: one room, three friends, a La-Z-Boy chair, a bed, the floor, three blankets so they “didn’t see anyone else’s junk.”
Even better than the event itself was the sweet anticipation, Theo explained, “checking the TV guide on the TV to see what was playing and when, and then kind of mentally counting down towards it the entire night.”
When the friends finally selected a feature film for their viewing pleasure, “I’m pretty sure we just watched it in silence and beat off,” Theo concluded. (They had to remain quiet because the friend’s dad was watching TV in the next room.)
For Theo, the presence of other people ― and penises ― wasn’t in itself an arousing factor. “We were all just trying to enter our own little sexualities,” he said. The group aspect was purely practical.
And yet, he hypothesized, perhaps choking the chicken was a bonding exercise, in a way. “I’m still friends with at least three of the people who I’ve beat off in the same room as,” he noted. “But some of those people aren’t friends with each other anymore, so I don’t think it had a gluelike effect on everyone.”
For Jake, his early memories of watching internet porn involved his friend Benjamin and “watching whatever Benjamin had downloaded on Kazaa.”
“He’d be on his bed like reading or playing guitar or just hanging out while I masturbated,” Jake said. “It didn’t feel terribly weird really. Kinda like normal guy stuff I guess.”
Sometimes Benjamin would join in, sometimes with a third friend Max, “just the three of us hunched over in a dark room.”
“The funny part was, Benjamin and I finished much earlier than Max, so we just kinda stood there.”
Fred also masturbated in the company of a friend, chosen because this friend’s parents went to sleep early and had a computer tucked away in a distant room. “We would literally go to, like, boobs dot com,” Fred said.
While they enjoyed the fruits of boobs.com, the buds would “cover [their] boners with pillows.” It wasn’t until after the digital content concluded that they retreated to their separate sleeping bags ― still in the same room ― and beat off. It was “often a little bit later,” Fred clarified, but “the memory of the porn was enough.”
While mutual masturbation rituals sometimes revolve explicitly around a youthful access to internet porn, they can also provide erotic stimulation in themselves, especially for men who are questioning or experimenting with their sexuality.
Patrick, for example, used to masturbate with male friends who “publicly identify as straight,” as he does. Privately, however, he identifies as bi, “maybe a 1 or 2 on the Kinsey scale.”
He began watching porn with a friend, with both boys touching themselves under a blanket. By custom, then, they transitioned to a post-blanket phase, and eventually “taking care of each other,” as he put it. Patrick had such a relationship with two different friends in high school.
There was a third friend with whom Patrick masturbated in his early 20s, though never without a blanket. “I had to resist the urge to do it openly because by then I knew that was part of the fun for me,” he said. “He may have been into it if I did — I’ll never know. He’s currently engaged.”
Patrick continued: “I’m attracted to women. But if I see an erect penis, I can’t help but think of sex. Call me crazy.”
Let us thank Sir Paul for starting this national conversation, for loosening up the rigid norms governing male sexuality as if they were a pair of PE shorts. My only hope is that the men reading this are inspired to ring up an old dude friend and reminisce about the good old days.
Imagine all the people beating off in peace.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.