The purpose of the program is to remove the stigma associated with masturbation and to promote the positive effects of self-love, according to Rebecca Lehman, adviser to the group.
"Masturbation is healthy, safe and fun," she says.
Students wore stickers announcing, "I reheat my own furburger," "I unclog my own drain," "I twinkle my own star" and "I got a stinky pinky." A young woman staffing a booth yelled to passersby, "When I think of you, I touch myself!"
The Masturbation Celebration has received its share of opposition, but it keeps growing every year.
"It started out with a table and a couple of kids," Lehman said. "We had a couple of books, flyers and raffled-off prizes that we paid for out of our own pockets."
Now the event gets support from sex businesses and nonprofit social service agencies. The AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati distributed literature on safe sex practices.
Many students passing by the booths showed looks of disgust and embarrassment.
"Some people ripped up our flyers in protest," Lehman says. "Some students would say, 'Ooh, that's gross!' or 'No one does that!' People are either for it or against it."
When students played a game, throwing a ring around a dildo, a few students were vocal about the overall message of the celebration -- namely the virtues of masturbating.
"That is where all sex should start," said student Tona Sims. "I see nothing wrong with it. It's free. Your dealing with your wants and needs instead of worrying about your partner's."
UC student Ben Savoca is a believer.
"Masturbation is one of the greatest stress relievers known to man," he said. "It is a great way to relieve sexual tension."
Edna Jenkins pronounced herself proud of fellow student masturbators.
"I feel good that people are loving themselves," she said.
Yet taking matters into one's own hands is not the fullness of pleasure, according to student Tynisha Worthy.
"I think it's good people are loving themselves," she said. "But I think it's better when someone else loves you."
The Masturbation Celebration did, in fact, make room for people who enjoy games other than sexual solitaire.
Cathy Sines of Power Exchange and Erotic Roleplaying (PEER) Group was on hand to dispense information about fetish activities. PEER Group was established in 1995 for adults interested in erotic forms of expression including role reversal, bondage and discipline.
"We have an adult group for those 35 and over and we have the New Generation for those 18 to 35," Sines said. "PEER Group is a place where people can socialize and learn that they are not alone. We also get together for safe play."
The group's idea of safe play includes waxing -- dripping hot candle wax on another person for erotic pleasure. Also popular are caning and flogging, according to Sines.
The annual Masturbation Celebration at UC is a positive program, according to Hustler store manager Dustin Flynt, nephew of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.
"This sends a powerful message," he said. "I encourage society, especially the younger generation, to be more relaxed about the topic of sex. The only way to educate ourselves is to talk about it. Don't repress yourself. Express yourself."
Lehman, one of the founding members of Students Supporting Sexual Expression, is a graduate student of health promotion and education. Clad in a pink T-shirt bearing the one-word message "Vulva," she says she doesn't understand the strong resistance many people have to talking about masturbation.
"If people are so uptight about touching themselves, what else are they uptight about?" she said. ©