Why talking about masturbation is so, so important

HBO

I remember staying up late with my best friends at sleepovers, whispering secrets that feel so important when you’re 13 and it’s three in the morning. We talked about everything. Who did we have crushes on? Who was having family drama? Who finally got their period? But there was always one question we tiptoed around: who masturbated?

Society teaches us, implicitly most of the time, that girls don’t masturbate. While my friends and I felt comfortable talking about so many different topics, masturbation was not one of those topics — we’d always been told it was a taboo. My friends and I did talk about it in little snippets, through notes passed in class, whispers at the lunch table, and over email (this was back when sending a text cost about a billion dollars). We knew the boys did it — they even talked about porn — but we were terrified to admit that any one of us could be engaging in such a “filthy” habit. As female masturbation was never brought up in our sex education classes, there was really no natural way for it come up in our own conversations.

Eventually, though, we got older. We started flirting, then dating. Once we started talking about sex, the topic of masturbation emerged in a more open way. Finally, we asked each other: “Do you masturbate?”

Once it was out in the air, I think a weight was lifted from our shoulders. The more mature we got, the easier it was to talk about. And it ended up being really important.

Luckily, things are changing in the media and the mainstream conversation about sex. We’re finally seeing women masturbating on screen in a way that’s empowering. Shows and movies with mostly female audiences, like Girls and The To Do List, have made it clear that women don’t just masturbate for male approval or interest. We do it for ourselves.

What’s so awesome about these depictions of female masturbation is that they don’t end up with guilt or anything that makes it seem like what’s just gone down is somehow wrong. These women simply continue on with their lives. These positive representations make it clear that yeah, some women masturbate, and it’s really NBD.

Conversations about masturbation are super important because they often shift into conversations about self-care and really knowing your body, as well as why pleasure is so important. They can even become conversations about consent and healthy relationships. After all, what better time to talk about wellness and equality in relationships than a chat about taking care of yourself?

I also think that it’s revolutionary when women talk about masturbation. Why? Because, in a society where female sexuality is demonized and silenced, it’s revolutionary for a woman to know how to make her own body feel good without the help of a sexual partner. The amount of trust that comes with that conversation is major, and collaborating and sharing thoughts and experiences to figure out how to reach that sometimes-elusive first Big O is huge. Having a group of people you can learn from and learn with is such an important thing to have as a young woman.

So, yes — I talk about masturbation. Not everyone does it, but a lot of people do, and there’s nothing wrong with doing it, or with not doing it. That’s the great thing about masturbation — everything that happens is up to you. In a society where women often struggle to be heard, having that amount of power over your own body is ridiculously important. And it’s pretty darn fun, too.

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