Tired of the Taboo: Female Masturbation

This article has been published anonymously.

[Featured Image: Shows four pieces of fruit cut in half all demonstrating or representing female genitalia.]

A couple weeks ago I ordered a vibrator online. It’s something I thought about doing for a long time and finally, after seeing a discount for ‘Love Honey’ on Unidays, I bucked up the courage to do it. Not that I hadn’t masturbated before this, it’s just buying a vibrator felt to me like I was making it an official hobby. I told myself that as a single woman in her early 20s, I was perfectly entitled to take ownership of my body and my sexuality. But still, all the while I was researching the right one to get and ordering it to my flat, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself about how strange I felt doing it. I wanted to tell someone about it, so I confided in a friend. I tell her pretty much everything, but we haven’t spoken much about masturbation and for some reason, I felt really uncomfortable bringing it up. After I did, she told me that she had one too and immediately I felt so much better about it. Since then I’ve spoken to a couple other friends, and they too shared with me that they owned various vibrators and sex toys. So now I’m left wondering, why did I feel so strange about buying one?

There’s no denying that female masturbation is not talked about in everyday conversation. Not that male masturbation is something you would talk about in a professional setting or with your parents. But it is pretty much accepted that masturbating is something that boys and men do. Being a woman, I haven’t been privy to any conversations between exclusively male friends, but I get the impression it’s something that they would joke about and have no shame admitting they do. Whereas, if women do talk about masturbation it’s usually after a few drinks and accompanied by lots of uncomfortable laughing and blushing. Even writing this article I feel the need to do so anonymously. Maybe if you’re reading this article in a public place, you’re currently trying to hide it from those around you. This is because there’s this shame, guilt and embarrassment that women feel when talking about female masturbation, but there really shouldn’t be. 

For the guys reading this who are thinking “do women actually do it too?”, yes of course they do! Research has found that 92% of women have admitted to touching themselves,1 however I would guess that there are some in that research who have but didn’t admit it. Female masturbation is completely normal. As an article on Bustle put it, it’s “no more perverse than fixing yourself a sandwich when you are hungry”.2 It fulfils a biological need and there is nothing wrong with that. Although, when Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders said something similar and suggested it be taught, she was fired by the Clinton administration in 1994.3

So why is there a massive taboo around the subject? It stems from the patriarchal, Victorian-style belief that women are pure, virtuous, angelic creatures that should not be corrupted and tarnished by the depravity of sex. Essentially, it is men trying to retain some control over women’s bodies. This is because, for men, female masturbation is an existential crisis. What will become of the world if women realise that they don’t need men for sexual pleasure?4 Of course, this is complete B.S. because men have been masturbating for centuries and yet they seem to have still found sexual satisfaction with women too. Moreover, women have probably been doing it in secret for centuries too, whether or not they admitted it or were even aware of what they were doing. Furthermore, through masturbation women are able to acquire a better understanding of their bodies which can make their sexual encounters more enjoyable. Surely, if we are to claim any kind of gender equality in society, then women should be entitled to enjoy sex just as much as men? 

I am aware that I’m being hypocritical by claiming women shouldn’t be ashamed of masturbation but refusing to put my name to this article. But as much as I wish I had the confidence to stand up in front of everyone I know and say “hey, I masturbate and I’m proud of it”, sadly I’m not quite there yet. For now, at least I’ve started talking about it with my close friends. So, if you also do not feel quite ready to declare your alone-time habits to everyone, I would encourage you to start off by sharing it with a friend. Then hopefully, eventually, we will end up in a place where it’s no longer something we feel embarrassed to admit. Oh, and if you don’t already have one, buy a vibrator. You won’t regret it. 

Sources Cited:

1 Anne Friedman, ‘For Women, Is Masturbation the Last Sex Taboo?’, New York Magazine,  (https://www.thecut.com/2013/06/women-is-masturbation-the-last-sex-taboo.html), accessed 10th February 2020.

2 Jaleesa Jones, ‘Why the Taboo of Female Masturbation is B.S.’, Bustle, (https://www.bustle.com/articles/887-why-the-taboo-of-female-masturbation-is-bs), accessed 10th February 2020.

3 Friedman, ‘For Women’.

4 Ibid.

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