I was 13 or 14 the first time I masturbated. I didn’t know what I was doing. Not really. I mean, I had a general idea: I knew I was supposed to touch myself, and “pleasure myself.” I was supposed to bring myself to the point of orgasm. To climax. To come. But I had no idea what those things meant.
They were notions and words I had heard but didn’t understand.
However, after a conversation with a classmate, I decided it was something I wanted to do. It was something wanted to try. And so one night I snuck from my bedroom and into the living room. I buried my body beneath a large blanket and sat squarely on the couch, legs up and outstretched. And, when I was sure everyone was asleep, I turned on the TV, and tuned in to the scrambled Spice Network — which, for those of a younger generation, was how you watched porn “back in the day.”
At first, it felt awkward. I was awkward. My underwear scratched uncomfortably against my unshaven pubes. My fingers floundered to make sense of the numerous cracks, crevices, and folds, and I didn’t know if I should explore outside or my insides. I didn’t know what to do or where to touch. But then things changed. Feelings changed, and instead of feeling awkward, it felt good.
My body flushed. My heart quickened. The space between my legs warmed, and my crotch pulsated.
Electricity coursed throughout my body, until it didn’t. Until I was done.
And while curiosity was the catalyst for my first time, now I masturbate all the time because I want to, because I like to, and because the act brings me pleasure.
It keeps me cool and calm and with a level head.
Of course, there is a terrible stigma surrounding masturbation, especially female masturbation. Some believe masturbation is dirty and dangerous. It is an act performed by porn stars and prostitutes, and nothing more. Some religions proclaim masturbation is a sin. It is a repugnant, dirty act done by “good girls” gone bad. And historically speaking, there was no reason to masturbate because, according to Psychology Today, “until the 20th century, American and European men — including physicians — believed that women did not experience sexual desire or pleasure.”
What sort of bullshit is that?
But the taboo surrounding female masturbation is rooted in more than antiquated science and loosely interpreted religions. It is societal. It is cultural. Movies frequently depict male masturbation, but female masturbation? Not so much.
Don’t believe me? I can name dozens of movies with a comedic male self-pleasuring scene — everything from There’s Something About Mary and American Pie to Fast Times At Ridgemont High — but female scenes are hard to come by. I can count them on a single hand.
The taboo surrounding female pleasure begins in babyhood. In toddlerhood. Long before adolescence, pubescence, rounded buttocks, and breast buds. It is part of our subconscious.
You see, we live in a male-dominated society. A patriarchal society. And it is a society which teaches our girls (and women) that — in order to be good and proper — you must be sweet and silent. You should be loving, modest, submissive, meek, and coy. And that attitude extends into the bedroom. Women don’t pleasure themselves because they subconsciously believe they couldn’t. Because, from a young age, they are told they shouldn’t. And because they believe that, if they do, they are going against the grain.
They are doing something wrong, immoral, or abnormal.
“When a…preschooler is caught with their hands near their genitals, parents and teachers often have a reflexive response ‘don’t do that,'” Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, explains to Medical Daily. As such, kids learn at an early age that the act itself is naughty, shameful, bad, and — well — forbidden.
But the stigma doesn’t end there. Another problem resides in language itself: women do not talk about masturbation because we do not have a way to talk about masturbation. We do not have the words. Not sure what I mean? Well, consider this: men can whack off, jerk off, spank it, beat it, sling it, choke the chicken, shuck the corn, jerk their gherkin, or strangle the cyclops. But women? We can only rub one out, visit the bat cave, flick the bean, or butter our goddamn muffins — which sounds unappealing, at best. So women do not talk about it because we do not know how to.
Because unconsciously we are not allowing ourselves to.
But we should talk about it because most women are doing it. In fact, according to The Cut, 92 percent of women have touched themselves.
So how do we remove the shame? How do we stop the sexual stigma? By trying it. By continuing to do it (if we like it), and by having a collective conversation — with our friends, family, and (yes) our peers. Because there is nothing wrong or shameful in knowing yourself, loving yourself, or in touching yourself.
Masturbation is a beautiful thing.