She Heard It Was Masturbation Month. Guess What Happened Next?

by Kari Anne Roy
Originally Published: 

At first I thought it was just something invented on the Internet. You know, more like International Get People to Believe It’s Masturbation Month. It turns out, though, it was created all the way back in 1995 as a response to Joycelyn Elders, the U.S. surgeon general at the time, who said that masturbation is part of human sexuality and that perhaps children should be taught it’s OK.

She was promptly fired.

By the Clinton administration.

Oh, cruel irony.

Thus, International Masturbation Month was born. Power to the people, and all that. Though I have to say, as an obnoxious feminist, it’d be even more useful if it were International Women’s Masturbation Month.

Women don’t talk about masturbating very much, you know? When it comes to men doing it, it’s everywhere. Pop culture is basically eight parts men wanking and two parts creating things to help men wank. Or maybe reverse that. Either way: Men wanking is part of our human creed. Women wanking? Not so much.

We could go into the whys of this, but really, we know the whys. As women, we are familiar with the institutional sexism that pervades our lives. I could dedicate an entire series of articles to discussing the culture of shame women are born into, and how this culture is reinforced by everything from what adults tell children about their bodies to what advertising says about pleasing your man to the federal government firing a woman who says masturbating is not shameful.

For our purposes today, though? Let’s agree that we know the environment regarding females pleasuring themselves is pretty shitty. (And let’s also agree that the word “pleasuring” is shitty. Ugh. Sorry.)

Instead of getting bogged down in all that, let’s just jump right to the part where I beg you to get down with your bad self.

As a human being, you deserve to enjoy sexual pleasure. I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But don’t think you shouldn’t, or that you can’t help yourself along. Your body is not just your partner’s wonderland. It is you. It is the packaging you carry yourself around in all day, every day. You are in charge of it. You get to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. If you haven’t really taken time by yourself to figure this out, I can promise you there are things like that you didn’t know about, even—and especially—now that you’re getting older and more prone to giving zero (rhetorical) fucks.

When women get together to hang out, conversation doesn’t often swing toward how many times you make yourself orgasm in a week. Sure there are often giggly side conversations about sex toys and various porn-y things, but the masturbation itself isn’t part of the conversation. The bawdy culture surrounding men and their self-love doesn’t really exist for women. Obviously, if it’s something you’re uncomfortable talking about with other people, you don’t have to. But I do wish that it was a less taboo subject.

There is a lot of new energy being spent on how women can make themselves feel more accepted, more in tune with their bodies, prouder of their physical appearances. This is a great step forward. Just imagine if women were also being encouraged to embrace their sexuality as a means towards learning to appreciate themselves just as they are.

That’s the thing with masturbating, you know. Everyone has their own way of doing it. What gets you off might not get me off, but it doesn’t matter, because we’re all getting off. And when you have the power to make yourself feel that way—and you know you’re not doing anything shameful or wrong—just think of how your self-confidence can grow.

Everywhere we look, there are magazines and TV shows and Internet ads and insidious cultural norms that tell us how we should look and how we should feel and what should make us feel good and what we should find sexy. This manufactured sexuality is confusing, and it’s impossible to get right for anyone. We can’t get it right, because it isn’t real.

You know what is real, though? You are. And discovering how that realness is the foundation of your confidence, of your taking the world by storm, of your owning your badass self … well, that discovery is right at your fingertips.

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