Naturally, Girls Masturbate
It’s Not Nasty!
This is the first generation whose view of the world has been shaped by videos that last for less than a minute. They consume massive amounts of information, but usually in short bursts that are between five and 250 words.
They have seen porn on their laptops and phones since middle school, and they can’t remember a time when couples didn’t text or sext. The quality of the camera on their phones is more important than the sound.Casual sex? No big deal. Some do, some don’t.)
You’d imagine the kids today know it all. Imagine my amazement when a girl in one of my sex education classes asked if I thought it was okay for women to masturbate.
What? This was like asking if I thought it was okay for women to vote. Here I’d spent hundreds of hours trying to create a cutting edge talk, and with this one question, the clock was suddenly turned back to 1950.
When I asked her what might be wrong with women masturbating, she said a lot of women thought it was nasty.
Nasty? It’s North Carolina!” I said to myself. That’s what this question is about. It can’t be true for women in the rest of the country. So I emailed a young woman [“tell me it ain’t so!” who had graduated two years ago from a fairly liberal college and was now working as a health educator at an even more liberal college. Here was her response:
I had a lot of friends who’d had sex multiple times with multiple partners and had never had an orgasm. When I asked them if they ever masturbated they would gasp like it was the nastiest thing ever.
Then I would say well there’s your problem. How is someone else supposed to get you off when the best person for the job has no idea?
She said that just a few weeks before, an RA in the dorms had asked her to give a workshop on women’s masturbation because a lot of young women apparently don’t think masturbation is a sensible thing for women to do.
The RA got flack from students for scheduling this voluntary workshop and this is a liberal college.
I also checked in with an instructor who uses my book in her popular sex education course at a highly-rated community college on the West Coast. She said young women think that women’s masturbation “is nasty indeed!”
The problem is not sex with a partner, it’s with masturbation. Many of today’s young women will have sex as long as a penis is attached. But use their own fingers or a vibrator, and all bets are off.
In our part of the world, most people believe it’s normal for young women to have sex. So why would young women today think that sex with a guy is okay but masturbation is nasty?
I blame it on the unfortunate state of sex education, which for many young adults is a bizarre combination of abstinence-only and porn.
For women, this has resulted in a heavy dose of shame from abstinence-only, mixed with the idea from porn that the only good girl is a girl gone wild. In porn, good sex happens magically whenever a guy pulls out a penis.
Nowhere is there a healthy middle ground. We don’t help young women understand how to become more comfortable with their sexual selves.
No one is encouraging young women to explore their bodies on their own. No one is giving them permission to learn about their own sexual responsiveness without a partner present.
A Woman’s Complaint
We never discuss female masturbation, on its own, without a purple, glittery, revolving phallus, without a man present, just for the sake of it.
I can talk about it if someone else brings it up in conversation (which rarely happens), but I have to force myself to swallow my discomfort first, and I’d never bring it up myself – why is that?
The topics of conversation I’ll cover with my closest friends know no bounds – except this one. Is it just too personal? Because that’s how it feels.
I managed to get one friend, who will discuss her bowel movements with me at the drop of a hat, to admit that she masturbates. But only when she’d drunk the best part of a bottle of wine.
But why the double standard? Men talk about wanking all the time. A male friend “knows a guy” who prides himself on the number of times he can fit a wank in during a day at work.
But is female masturbation actually taboo? Or am I the maiden aunt clutching her pearls while all the cool kids go off to masturbation raves in warehouses, where they take loads of ketamine and frig themselves silly?
The problem lies with how we discuss it, and the language we use. The discussion focuses on products (toys) and performance/aspirational messages around spicing up your sex life. But, we don’t talk about how to masturbate or how that might be interpreted within a relationship.
Masturbation is happening and we talk about it but the media/self-help market uses language in quite a limiting way, which actually means it’s not a taboo but can be difficult to talk about.
Masturbation is fine when it’s for the purposes of male titillation. But why? Does female desire, on its own and without a purpose (to make babies, or to please a man) make us uncomfortable? Are women not allowed to be horny, just because?
And why do women refuse to talk about masturbating even when they are just in female company? We are the generation that talks about absolutely anything. But not this.
It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy we’re all a willing part of, a refusal to discuss female masturbation sensibly, lest all the women discover their clitorises, drop what they’re doing and start furiously wanking in the nearest cupboard. But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?