The t-shirt I put on this morning, taken from the top of a big pile I rotate through, happened to be the “Every Time You Masturbate, God Kills a Kitten” number, which is of course a joke — but one that taps uneasily into attitudes about masturbation. And then it turned out that the history of the slogan (with a different graphic from the one on my t-shirt) has been nailed down. The original computer graphic:
“Every time you masturbate… God kills a kitten” is the caption of an image created by a member of the website Fark.com in 2002. The image features a kitten (subsequently referred to as “Cliché Kitty”) being chased by two Domos, and has the tagline “Please, think of the kittens”.
Origin: According to a New York Times Magazine article on Domo-kun, “Any major exhibition on the history of clowning around on the Internet would have to include [this image]”. An article from ICv2 stated, “This phony [Public service announcement] is quite out of character with Domo’s image in Japan.”
The phrase originally appeared as the headline “Fact: Every Time You Masturbate, God Kills a Kitten. How Many More Have to Die?” with a kitten photo on the cover of The Gonzo, a satirical publication produced by students at Georgetown University, in 1996.
Cultural references: In 2003, actor Dudley Sutton found inspiration from the Internet, “where apparently people say that every time you masturbate God kills a kitten”.
XXXchurch.com used the retouched kitten image in an e-mail campaign. Jay Porter was quoted as stating that “‘God kills a kitten every time you masturbate’ is not an advisable message to direct at children”, after [Jackson County (MI) Summit Township’s Westwinds Community Church] used the slogan during an anti-pornography campaign in 2005. [The message was designed to help people fight addictions to behavior that clashes with Christian beliefs, according to the church.] The phrase also inspired the name of a sex club called Killing Kittens.
The phrase is sometimes varied. For example, in 2003, Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee maintained a screensaver that showed kittens chased by vengeful ninjas, and the cut line, “Every time you masturbate, a ninja chops the head off a kitten.”
Digression on Domo-kun. From Wikipedia:
Domo … is the official mascot of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, appearing in several 30-second stop-motion interstitial sketches shown as station identification during shows.
Domo-kun first appeared in short stop-motion sketches on December 22, 1998 to mark the 10th anniversary of NHK’s satellite broadcasting. The name “Domo” was acquired during the second episode of his show, in which a TV announcer said “dōmo, konnichiwa” …, which is a greeting that can be translated as “Well, hello there!”, but which can also be interpreted as “Hello, Domo”, and thus is a convenient pun … The kun suffix on “Domo-kun”, the name used to describe the character in the Japanese versions, is a Japanese honorific often used with young males.
Domo, the main character, is a brown, furry and oviparous monster with a large, sawtoothed mouth that is locked wide open. His favorite food is nikujaga, a Japanese meat and potato stew, and he strongly detests apples for an unknown genetic reason. According to a Tokyopop press release of the Domo comic book, Domo “communicates sotto voce with a verve that only his friends can understand.”
… Domo became well known outside Japan through a mock public service announcement that circulated on the Internet depicting Domos chasing a kitten with the words stating: “Every time you masturbate… God kills a kitten.”
Domo-kun doesn’t figure in most of the later images, which are graphically much simpler than the original. Sometimes the kitten is preserved, as here:
Others provide a new graphic, and sometimes a revised message, as here:
(Other sites argue that masturbation could solve our feral cat problem.)
[Added on the 1st, hat tip to Sim Aberson, who noted a wonderful reversal (with kitten and domo-kun exchanged):
Another piece of humor comes in the form of a a cartoon, a Least I Could Do strip (by Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza) from 7/18/09:
(SexBusters is based on the tv program MythBusters.)
On the strip, from Wikipedia:
Least I Could Do (LICD) is a humor webcomic by Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza (also the creators of the fantasy webcomic Looking for Group), which debuted on February 10, 2003. The original artist for the strip was Trevor Adams, who was with Least I Could Do for about six months. Adams was followed by Chad W. M. Porter, who drew the strip for two years. Least I Could Do is produced by Blind Ferret Entertainment, which owns the rights to the strip. The primary theme of the strip is sexuality, especially the promiscuity of the primary character, Rayne Summers, who is loosely based upon Sohmer himself.
The war on masturbation and Christian principles. Back to Westwinds Community Church, using the kitten slogan to fight what it views as addiction to behavior that clashes with Christian beliefs — a position that led me to the Stop Mastrbation Now site (Lonnie Childs, founder), which tells us:
Masturbation is a gateway drug to rape. It also leads to sexual dysfunction, erodes family values, and is a top ten cause of disease. – Lonnie Childs
Masturbation is described as “self-rape”, inspired by Satan, and as a form of murder; and the site recommends the Anti-Masturbation Cross (“Safely train your children to keep their hands off their dangerous sin zones. Papoose Cross and Arms Immobilizer work together to safely secure a self-raping child”).
It’s a parody site, of course, but it’s still quite disturbing, not least because the positions it takes and the remedies it proposes all have direct correspondents in the long sad war of Christian authorities (notably, the Roman Catholic Church and various fundamentalist evangelical churches) against masturbation; the Anti-Masturbation Cross, for example, has something of a real history, and it’s far from the most bizarre or painful scheme that’s been employed to prevent children from masturbating. (As a kind of awful bonus, the Stop Masturbation Now site picks up comments from passionate, raving critics of Planned Parenthood and of sex education.)
Some of this dreadful history is recounted in Thomas W. Laquer’s Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation (2003), supplemented by two books on more recent history by James R. Kincaid: Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture (1992); Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting (1998). From Kincaid’s faculty profile at USC:
Kincaid’s earlier work in Victorian literature and culture and in literary theory has yielded to publication in cultural studies, most recently in the history and current cultural practices of eroticizing children and instituting elaborate scapegoating rituals to disguise what we are doing.
The involvement of Christian authorities in all of this comes from their position that they know the mind of God in the matter, and God tells them that masturbation is a Sin, inspired by Satan, which the adult sinner must admit and vow to stop, and which children must be prevented from falling into.
This is not merely a position that believing Christians must refrain from masturbating (and using artificial methods of contraception and engaging in sex before marriage and engaging in sex with a member of the same sex, all of which are Sins according to Christian authorities who claim to know the mind of God), but a position that everyone must do so, and the fact that I do not recognize any of these things as Sins (indeed do not recognize this notion, though I understand something about evil) means that I am not even slightly repentent, nor do I propose to alter my beliefs or behavior in these matters, so that I am, in the view of these Christian authorities, myself an agent of Satan.
From a 2/19/13 posting on the verb wank (and the noun wanker):
along with these linguistic usages go two long-standing social attitudes (connected to one another) about masturbation. I’ve written several times about the idea that masturbation is unproductive sex, which leads to a thicket of metaphors about various activities (judged to be unproductive) as equivalent to masturbation. And then there’s the bad end of jacking off, reported by the OED under the heading of wanker’s doom, in its wanker entry:
One who masturbates; wanker’s doom, disability caused by excessive masturbation.
Jacking off makes you grow hair on your palms, makes you blind, makes you go crazy. (What you need is vaginal intercourse, preferably with your wife.) The idea is that masturbation is not only unproductive, but unnatural, against God’s will, hence dangerous and destructive. Fucking your wife a lot is good, indeed what God wants, but jacking off a lot is dangerous craziness. I think *that’s* craziness.