We didn’t learn enough about it growing up. We weren’t really taught about it in school, and most of our parents weren’t exactly laying down the how-to on bringing yourself to orgasm (thank God). It’s just something you kind of had to pick up along the way, and figure out as you went. If you’re a girl, it’s an even harder process. While the act of male masturbation has always been regarded with a sort of winking, “Oh, you”-esque approval, female masturbation was something dirty. It was something deviant, even — and certainly nothing that should be talked about. Figuring out how to masturbate as a girl is a lot like feeling your way down a dark hallway at night — if you’ll permit the metaphor.
It’s a terrible shame, though, that we aren’t more embracing of all things self-love. We say that it’s good to love yourself, to think you are beautiful, to appreciate all of the wonderful things you can do and feel in this world. To enjoy your own company is generally regarded as a positive. But to touch that body, to give it pleasure in a way usually reserved for a sexual partner, is seen as in some way less wholesome or pure. Especially if you’re a woman engaging in the act. A woman who masturbates — especially one who masturbates often — is defective in some way. She needs a man, or is driving all of the potential suitors away with her flagrant demonstrations of self-satisfaction.
We have this weird collective hangup about the sex we’re having and the masturbation we’re engaging in as being inherently related to one another. You’re doing too much of one, not getting enough of the other. Never do we seem to acknowledge that they can be wonderful partners in crime, even engaged in at the same time. There has to be a certain amount of shame and stigma around masturbation because we feel that it is, on some level, a bit selfish. It’s something you hide away and keep entirely to yourself, the way you go about relieving the more pent-up tensions that aren’t suitable for public consumption. Most of us are taught about these things in a way which implies their innate shame — no one should be proud of masturbating.
But yet we are also quick to point out the kinds of problems that can erode otherwise healthy, happy sex between two adults. We say that there is a “lack of communication,” that people aren’t getting what they want, that they don’t even know what it is that they want. Yet isn’t the most efficient way to decide how one feels about sex and their own body to learn exactly what they do and do not like on their own? To give themselves the best and most frequent kinds of orgasms so they are confident in telling someone else how to recreate the magic? Perhaps if women weren’t constantly shamed into not touching themselves in a way which feels good, there wouldn’t be such a rampant need to fake the orgasms we are supposed to know how to achieve.
The truth is that there is nothing wrong with masturbation — it is something everyone can and does engage in (or, at least, most people) and is as natural as any other human function. There is something quite noble about getting in touch with ourselves and our wants, and this is yet another way to go about it. It is self-love, and self-care, and spending some of the physical attention we often dedicate to others right back on the person who may need it most. It is something that should be talked about with frankness and kindness, and not judged as some indicator of moral character or sexual prowess. We are all creatures with needs and curiosities, and there is no one — not even a young woman you wish to imagine as some anachronistic version of “pure” — who is wrong for indulging them. If you’re unable to acknowledge that, perhaps it would behoove you to masturbate more. You could probably stand to relax.