“I’ve noticed I have a tendency to masturbate more when I’m anxious.”
“Do women really masturbate?”
This chat I had with a 20-something year old male friend of mine epitomises the shock that many people have when they learn that women masturbate and that we are not ashamed to acknowledge it.
Because despite the fact that this friend and I regularly discuss sex and that he is aware that I am sexually active in my relationships, he had never considered the possibility that I might be sexually active alone. And the reason for that is because we are taught that women's sexuality is just for other people.
Masturbation has always been something I've done in reaction to my own wants, not as a display to put on for anyone, ever since I unintentionally discovered it as a teenager.
I don't strike arousing positions or utter alluring sounds. I don't run long hibiscus-scented baths or light candles. In other words, I approach the procedure in the same manner as everyone else, even guys. Additionally, that appears to surprise individuals.
People are astonished when women approach masturbation as a common, everyday activity because the majority of images of women engaging in the act are either obscene or include feminist empowerment.
The idea that sexual preferences are inherently different across the sexes is supported by the concept that masturbation behaviours are fundamentally different. And when we adopt this viewpoint, we support a stereotype-based mindset that says "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" and "non-binary genders don't exist."
We influence society to view women as exotic animals rather than as fellow beings with whom we can empathise. Relationships are harmed by this artificial distinction as well as the idea that women's sexuality is something external to them rather than something that defines them.
Numerous myths regarding vaginas are connected to our views about women and masturbation. Many of the preconceived notions we have about women, vaginas, and their relationship to the body as a whole are incorrect.
Many stereotypes about women, vaginas, and masturbation are directed at cis women – and only because society as a whole has a narrow view of the subject. However, certain beliefs also apply to anyone who identifies as a woman or has a vagina and doesn’t identify as a woman.
Therefore, since that is the experience I can speak to, this piece will concentrate on stereotypes regarding cis women.
However, more has to be written on the myths that surround trans people's masturbation practises, and that conversation needs to be contextualised within their experiences and I don’t have the authority to do that, so I won’t.
In order to better comprehend genuine women's sexuality, as opposed to just an exoticized and objectified version of it, here are some myths regarding cis women and masturbation that should all be dispelled, especially amidst the very male-centric “No Nut November”.
Myth No. 1: Women don't masturbate
In Western cultures, the majority of people believe that men masturbate. Even though it's not a topic that should be brought up in polite company, men masturbating is seen as unavoidable and commonplace. This is not true for women's experience.
I felt self-indulgent, disgusting, and ashamed about masturbating during my adolescence. When I was around seventeen, during a game of Truth or Dare, I finally told someone. I chose “truth” – “what's your biggest secret”, I was asked.
My secret was that, shudder, I – a young woman – masturbated. Both of the friends I was with said, "Me too." Because we didn't think it was common, we had all been keeping it a secret. Actually, a survey found that 92% of women between the ages of 18 and 22 masturbate regularly. However, it's incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the exact number (which can be skewed owing to the embarrassment I personally experienced as a teenager).
Some individuals equate women having sexual arousal or pleasure on their own with professors they see outside of the classroom. They don't think about the sexuality of women outside of their relationships. However, many of us are born with a sexual nature that can be expressed even in the absence of another person.
Myth #2: Women's masturbation is a huge extravaganza
"She's about to masturbate, everyone, line up to purchase tickets! Buy one, get one free"
Every time I get into bed, it seems like this announcement is playing. Women's masturbation in porn is the subject of such an extravaganza.
Our self-pleasure is designed to be a spectacle, as evidenced by Shannon Elizabeth's sensual undressing and body touching in the film, American Pie and Joan Allen's breathy gasps and happy countenance that literally bring colour to the world in Pleasantville.
In most cases, when males masturbate in movies, it's not done so to make the viewer more aroused or to make it appear delicate and lovely. In American Pie, for instance, Jason Biggs' masturbation moment is portrayed as embarrassed rather than seductive. He's not sexy, but the porn he's watching is supposed to be.
Men are thought to masturbate in reaction to their own desires, whereas women do so to arouse the desires of others.
Women are forced out of their bodies by the portrayal of women's masturbation as a performance act, which causes them to objectify themselves even as they are doing it, which is generally reserved for us and not for how we appear to others.
As I've been exposed to more and more sex-related media representations, including ostensibly empowering articles and videos about women's pleasure, I've started to consider how my partner might react to me while I masturbate, paying attention to how my face appears and practising orgasm noises despite the fact that I'm naturally silent. Objectification affects us in this way.
Of course, it is possible to masturbate in public. However, when women are instructed to consider how they appear, feel, and sound while engaging in sexual activity, it causes them to lose focus and makes it difficult to experience self-pleasure.
Consequently, 32% of women claim that they have problems orgasming because they are preoccupied with their thoughts or their appearance. That shouldn't ever be a problem, especially not when no one is around.
Myth #3: Masturbating women are considered promiscuous
A woman who masturbates is viewed as sexually promiscuous since it's assumed that women's self-stimulation is for other people rather than just for themselves, as if she's doing it to be like a porn star instead of just for herself.
In addition, any woman who masturbates is viewed as kinky, risk-taking, or "freaky" due to the misconception that women don't normally engage in the practice. She must be doing it to titillate men rather than just being honest if she talks about it, which adds a whole new level of kinkiness.
I frequently worry that when I discuss masturbation with males they would see it as an invitation. Due to this same belief that women's sexuality exists primarily for other people, I've seen men interpret openly sexual women as being open to having sex with anyone.
It has nothing to do with our character, let alone how many sexual partners we have, how we masturbate or discuss masturbation. In fact, some people masturbate as a substitute for partnered sex.
Masturbation is the same as breathing or drinking water in that it is a means of satisfying a physical need. We overlook the fact that masturbation is just a basic physical drive for many people, regardless of gender, when we presume that women who masturbate must adore sex.
Myth #4: Women don't consume pornographic content
This supports the idea that whereas women are pure and only enjoy sex in its most emotionally gratifying forms, males have sexual minds. I'm sorry to break the news to you, but women do watch porn. Porn in all forms. What a terror!
Men are often said to be more visually inclined, which upholds the myth that women are naturally objectified. Additionally, this viewpoint defends men who worry that, if women are in fact visual creatures, they would become objects themselves. Newsflash: women are as visual as men.
Daniel Bergner's book What Do Women Want: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire claims that one in three porn users are female, that studies show that women's gaze linger on sensual imagery just as much as men's do, and that watching various sexual content causes arousal in women.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that many women love watching adult movies, most porn is targeted at heterosexual men and features women who are obviously not having fun, who are placed in potentially humiliating situations, and who are the focus of the camera's attention.
However, times are changing. It exists, and there is a market for feminist porn.
While not all things that turn on women are the same, many women seek porn that emphasises their sexual satisfaction. And as we recognise how visually inclined women are and encourage more women to work behind the camera rather than just in front of it, this will happen more frequently.
Some people attempt masturbation after knowing what it is, while others discover it by accident. But telling us that we need to understand the fundamentals of how our bodies function feels patronising. We must recognise that many women are already highly sexual and do not require outside influences to be so.
All of these myths share the trait of using a highly personal experience to define it for others. Our regimen for masturbating is ours and ours alone, and it can be anything.
Women's masturbation has been stolen by people of all genders for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, there is no reason why it should. You're not required to masturbate as a sex act, a manifestation of your masculinity or femininity, or as a way to gain your freedom. Simply because you feel like it, you can accomplish it.
Women's activities are frequently exaggerated in society and the media, as are women themselves. However, especially at our most private moments, we don't have to be. We are not the representations or objects of any ideal.
Let's let women be people who are simply doing what they do, whatever that may be, for once.