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“I think I ‘M’asturbate more when I’m stressed.”
This conversation I had with a male friend embodies the surprise a lot of people express when they find out I not only ‘M’asturbate, but also admit it unabashedly.
Ever since I discovered ‘M’asturbation accidentally during childhood, it’s been something I did in response to my own desires, not a show to put on for anyone.
I don’t get into ‘S’exy poses or make s’eductive noises. I don’t light candles or take baths. In short, I don’t go about the process differently from the way anyone else – men included – does. And that seems to surprise people, too.
Because most depictions of women ‘M’asturbating are either ‘P’ornographic or part of some narrative of f’eminist empowerment, people are surprised when women treat ‘M’asturbation as a normal, everyday activity.
Viewing ‘M’asturbation habits as fundamentally different by gender contributes to the view of ‘S’exualities as fundamentally different by gender.
And when we hold this understanding, we encourage a “men are from Mars, women are from Venus (and non-binary genders don’t exist)” mentality that replaces real people with stereotypes.
We also lead society to see women as exotic creatures, rather than fellow humans to empathize with. That artificial division gets relationships off to a bad start, as does the conception of women’s ‘S’exuality as a spectacle for others, rather than an attribute intrinsic to them.
A quick note: A lot of our ideas about women and ‘M’asturbation are tied up with myths about ‘V’aginas. Many of our ideas about women are wrong, many of our ideas about ‘V’aginas are wrong, and our view of the two as inherently connected is wrong.
Some myths around women, ‘V’aginas, and ‘M’asturbation apply to anyone with a ‘V’agina, and some apply to anyone who identifies as a woman – but they frequently are targeted toward cis women, if only because society in general has a limited perspective.
Therefore, this article will focus on myths about cis women, because that is the experience to which I can speak. But further writing should be done about mythologies surrounding trans peoples’ ‘M’asturbati0n habits as well – and that conversation should be situated within those experiences.
So, from my perspective, here are some myths we should all unlearn about cis women and ‘M’asturbati0n if we want to gain a greater understanding of real women’s ‘S’exuality – and not just an exotic!zed and objectified version of it.
Myth #1: Women Don’t ‘M’asturbate
Most people in Western cultures assume that men ‘M’asturbate. It’s not considered a polite topic to discuss, but it’s considered a normal, inevitable thing to do.
Women, not so much.
During my preteen and teen years, I felt perverted, self-indulgent, and guilty for ‘M’asturbating. I didn’t tell anyone until a Truth or Dare game when I was about fifteen. It was a “truth,” and the question was, “What’s your biggest secret?”
Mine was that – gasp – I ‘M’asturbated. “Me too,” said both the friends I was with. We had all been hiding it because we didn’t think it was normal.
Actually, according to one study, 92% of women ages 18-22 ‘M’asturbate regularly.
But regardless of what the actual number (which can be skewed due to the very embarrassment I experienced) is, it’s very normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
Some people think of women experiencing ‘S’exual pleasure or arousal by themselves the way kids think of teachers outside of school. They don’t consider that a woman’s ‘S’exuality exists beyond their relationships.
But ‘S’exuality is intrinsic to many of us, and it can be exercised without anyone else’s participation.
Myth #2: Women’s ‘M’asturbati0n Is a Big Extravaganza
Sometimes I feel like this announcement is playing every time I climb into bed. There’s such a big show made of women’s ‘M’asturbation in ‘P’orn and the rare movie where it’s depicted.
From Shannon Elizabeth’s sensual undressing and body caressing in American Pie to Joan Allen’s breathy gasps and ecstatic face that literally bring color to the world in Pleasantville, women’s ‘M’asturbation is supposed to be a spectacle.
When men ‘M’asturbate in the movies, it’s not usually optimized for the audience’s arousal or made to look dainty and beautiful. To use American Pie as an example again, Jason Biggs’ ‘M’asturbati0n scene is depicted as embarrassing, not ‘S’exy. The ‘P’orn he’s watching is supposed to be ‘S’exy, but he himself is not.
Because people believe that men ‘M’asturbate in response to their own desire, whereas women do to evoke others’ desires.
The depiction of women’s ‘M’asturbation as a performative act takes women out of their bodies, leading them to objectify themselves even while they ‘M’asturbate – a time typically designated to be totally about ourselves and not how we look to anyone else.
As I’ve been exposed to more and more media depictions of ‘S’ex, even supposedly empowering articles and videos about women’s pleasure, I’ve begun to imagine how a partner would perceive me while I ‘M’asturbate, monitoring how my face looks and practicing ‘O’rgasm noises even though I’m naturally silent.
This is what objectification does to us.
Of course, ‘M’asturbation can be done in front of someone else. But when women are taught to think about how they look, feel, and sound in the midst of it, it takes them out of the moment and makes pleasure hard to achieve.
Unsurprisingly, 32% of women say that when they have trouble ‘O’rgasming, it’s because they’re in their heads or focused on their looks. That shouldn’t be an issue ever – especially not when nobody is even watching.
Myth #3: Women Who ‘M’asturbate Are ‘Slutty’
Due to the perception that women’s self-stimulation is for other people, a woman who ‘M’asturbates is perceived as ‘S’exually promiscuous, as if she’s engaging in ‘M’asturbation to be like a ‘P’orn star rather than simply to give herself pleasure.
In addition, due to the perception that women don’t naturally ‘M’asturbate, any woman who ‘M’asturbates is perceived as kinky, adventurous, or “freaky.” And if she talks about it, that’s a whole other level of kinkiness – she must be doing it to titillate men, rather than just to be honest.
When I talk about ‘M’asturbation around men, I often fear they will take it as an invitation. I’ve seen men perceive openly ‘S’exual women as open to ‘S’ex with anyone, due to this same view that women’s ‘S’exuality only exists for other people.
How we ‘M’asturbate or talk about ‘M’asturbation has nothing to do with how many ‘S’exual partners we have – in fact, some people ‘M’asturbate as an alternative to partnered ‘S’ex – let alone our character.
We don’t view breathing or drinking water as morally charged, and ‘M’asturbation is the same: a way of fulfilling a physical need. When we assume that women who ‘M’asturbate must love ‘S’ex, we neglect the fact that ‘M’asturbation is just a basic physical urge for many people regardless of gender.
Myth #4: Women’s ‘M’asturbation Is More Emotional
There’s of course nothing wrong with making ‘M’asturbation a profound or healing experience, but for many women, it’s as simple as spending a few minutes touching ourselves when we get into bed and then going to sleep.
And, yes, for the record, we have X-rated thoughts. We can also have some pretty weird fantasies, as I’m sure many men do. I’m frequently greeted with the thought “Where the hell did that image come from?” immediately after I finish. Ah, well – some things are better enjoyed than analyzed.
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