Like life, we’re each responsible for our own experiences of pleasure. You can hardly blame someone else because of your own lack of orgasm or daily moments of pleasure. In the end, it comes down to the individual to grab the bull by the horns and make that choice to get off.
And this is where the wonder of masturbation is evident.
I find it fascinating hearing stories of masturbation. When they first did it, how they did, how they came to work it out, what meaning they took from it as a child or teenager, where is exists now in their life. I’m fascinated too by the differences between males and females in this, and of intersex and transgendered people. Was it more (or less?) confusing for the latter population? Disturbing? Liberating? These same emotive words can be used however for any individual, regardless of identified gender. Herein lies the influence of early experiences and messages received about sex – including masturbation – and also the generational time-period one is growing up in.
There are also the influences of religion and culture on experiences and interpretations of masturbation. Whether it is framed in a sex-negative fear-based manner, that discourages, shames and guilts a person into not touching themselves; which is hardly useful. When these outside forces of restriction and oppression become too much, they start to distort and contort the growing sexual self within. Things get cut off, hidden, suppressed, denied. Then they can become pathological or diseased.
Suppression of anything long enough eventually comes out. Secrets will always come to light eventually. I genuinely believe this – it’s a literal force of nature. Like a plant desperately trying to find the sunlight, the human desire for well, desire, will always come out somehow.
Better for it to be allowed and expressed than demonised and made sick. There is nothing sick about taking care of your own physical needs, especially if it is going to prevent the hurting of someone else. (I’m obviously talking about consent here.)
I’ve always loved masturbating. I mean seriously, who doesn’t? But perhaps I am focusing too narrowly on the physical pay-offs of a self-induced orgasm. That in itself is rarely an issue (unless you experience anorgasmia – inability to orgasm). It is what surrounds the masturbatory experience that can be problematic. Particularly if one has been raised in a sex-negative household or culture or society. And by sex-negative I don’t necessarily mean negative messages about sex, it can be the complete absence of discussions and education about sex, including masturbation.
Without words, how can one make sense of an unknown experience? And an experience so powerful and reinforcing that you return to it over and over and over again.
This kind of experience breeds all the hideous stuff. Shame, guilt, confusion, denial, numbness. I know I experienced a lot of shame about my sexual desires and how I took care of them. No one talked about it. I’m not sure if this is because I’m a cisgender female and I grew up with little education about this area in a pre-internet era. It felt isolating and confusing; was I some sort of sexual freak?
(Hahaha kinda yes, but these days I embrace and celebrate it!)
It was widely known that the teenage boys jerked off. It seems to be standard known ‘fact’ that universally men masturbate. But women? We still need more openness about this; although go onto Pornhub or Chaturbate and you’ll see no shortage of women masturbating. But I doubt they’re really getting off. Women still perform for money and acceptance. No shame in that at all. I just hope that they are still being able to experience actual feelings of pleasure, whether in masturbation or with someone else.
I met a fantastic prostitute last year, who was about to become a brothel madam/manager. She was so excited, it was hard not to share her joy. I’ll never forget however, an almost off-hand comment that she hasn’t had an orgasm for years. She was in a long-term heterosexual relationship and was probably in her late 40s. Hearing that really shocked and alarmed me. I immediately hypothesised that her job as a sex worker was shutting down her sexual self. I worried for her. She laughed it off but nevertheless my heart felt for her. I’m sure you can still enjoy an orgasmic sex life in your private life and still work as a sex worker. However this wasn’t her experience. Interesting.
I recall a glorious scene in season 1 of Sex Education on Netflix in which the character Aimee Gibbs spent hours experimenting with masturbation, after her male lover asked her what she liked…. The look on her face (of confusion) was so perfect. Clearly this character had never considered this idea before, and most interestingly, had never been asked this before by a lover – that’s a whole other topic of conversation.
My point is, she whole-heartedly decided to explore herself and work out exactly what did get her off (and what didn’t).
We need messages and scenes like this in the media because they impart important and vital information to all people: That women not only feel pleasure, but they have a right to pleasure as much as anyone and should be supported in being able to explore and express it.
Imagine that! A world where female orgasms are given and received freely!
I noted with intense interest an article by Tatenda Gwaambuka about ‘kunyaza’: “The sensual Rwandan tradition which guarantees explosive female orgasms”. (What the hell in I doing living in Australia?!). But all jokes aside, this stunned me because admittedly I had notions that female genital mutilation (FGM) was still being practised in ‘Africa’. And it is, but not in all countries or regions of the continent of Africa: I was clumping all of them into one zone; a terribly ignorant and racist thing of me to do.
(Note that FGM still exists in many countries throughout the world including parts of Africa, whether legal or not).
In Rwanda, reports Gwaambuka, women lead and get orgasms, and the country stands as one of the most gender equal societies in the world. What a stunning and impressive marker of progress for a country previously beset with horrific atrocities.
The most important part of this article for me is the making of this connection: that as much as there is a gender gap in workplaces throughout the world, there is also an orgasm gap in the bedroom (not in Rwanda though!). This blew my mind and confirmed a belief I already have: that part of the ongoing struggles women have for equality and respect is also about the general lack of orgasms they experience in their lives. Yes, really.
Think about it. Men still hold more power than women in many countries and universally have more orgasms than women (in regards to heterosexual sexual encounters). Interesting no?
So – and this takes me back to masturbation – perhaps if women experienced more pleasure, including orgasms, we would start to really equalise out the balance of power in many societies and countries. And if a woman isn’t experiencing orgasms with her partner, by golly she needs to fuck herself and get those orgasms out of her by and for herself. Of course this is a simplistic idea and we all known women are hardly simplistic creatures (some days I long to be simple!). However even considering this idea and seeing the true worth of pleasure, sex, masturbation, and orgasms – and being serious about creating a sex positive culture – is a start.
So go on, get off today and start changing the world 🙂