Girls, Masturbation and Shame
Originally Published: May 28, 2015
Revised: April 6, 2017
Everyone has that one friend who has no filter, isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind and rarely thinks of her surroundings. My friend like that—let’s call her Sarah—is never afraid to talk about what she was doing the night before, no matter how many people are around her. So when Sarah starts a conversation with, “I was masturbating last night, and…,” she never pays attention to the reaction. But I pay attention, and girls in the surrounding area usually either look at her in disgust or go completely silent. It’s strange, though, how one girl can be so open about being a sexual person while other girls are so ashamed and maybe even disgusted about it.
It’s time to change that, though. It’s time for us to take control of our bodies and be proud of the pleasure our bodies can give us. It’s time for the women of the world to turn into Sarahs.
It’s a safe way to feel pleasure and make you feel like you’re on top of the world
Girls Are Sexual Beings, Too
Take a moment the next time you’re at a store and pick up the magazines predominantly aimed at women. It won’t take long until you find a headline that reads something like, “Ten New Ways to Please Your Man.” Magazines like Cosmopolitan are famous for these headlines. But if you really think about it, you’ll notice that these articles are all about making the man feel good, making him feel pleasure, which in turn makes the article beneficial for the man and not at all for the woman.
Where are the articles about how to pleasure your woman? Why isn’t Cosmo advocating for the sexual pleasure of their own readership—women? Moreover, where are the cover stories about how to pleasure yourself? A magazine known to push the boundaries a little bit with its stories happens to be so quiet about putting masturbation tips as a cover story. Why?
Well, women—especially teen girls—are shamed for being sexual beings and exploring themselves sexually. This shame can make girls develop a fear of being labeled a “slut” or getting in trouble with parents because you’re simply “not old enough” to act that way.
“No one has ever mentioned masturbation to me ever,” says 16-year-old Gillian Anthony, of NJ. “But one time I grabbed my own boobs, and even then my mom was like, ‘Why would you do that?’”
Even mothers, who should be helping their daughters grow and be happy with themselves, are sending shameful messages to their daughters, making them feel bad for just doing something like touching their own breasts. So it’s no surprise that girls think masturbating is bad.
“If I were to try to talk about masturbation around someone like my mom, she would say it was inappropriate for me, but yet she jokes around about it with my brother all the time,” says Gillian.
There’s no denying it, the shame is clear. This same thing happens in the media as well, not just with parents or guardians. There’s an abundance of jokes about male masturbation, presumably the same type of thing Gillian’s mom says to Gillian’s brother. While there is probably a film out there that mentions female masturbation in a way that’s not shameful, I have never seen female masturbation mentioned in mainstream media.
“The world, whether it be through media or even parents, tells girls that masturbation is something they should feel shameful or embarrassed about,” says Megan James, 17, of NJ. “Girls grow up thinking it’s something awful and wrong to do, and it’s hard to change the way you think if that’s how you’ve been raised. So, one day the topic comes up and it’s awkward because you’ve been taught all your life how bad it is.”
Terri-Jo Arneson, 17, of MT, says “It’s never brought up, like ever.” Most teenage girls tell their friends just about everything, but when it comes to the topic of masturbation, no one says a word. “I feel like some people are really weirded out by the thought of it or of other people knowing they masturbate,” explains Terri-Jo.
Once again, it’s the shame that’s stopping girls from talking about masturbation; they’re “weirded out” by it. But girls could be learning that there is nothing shameful about their bodies or pleasure in sex ed.
Know Your Body
Despite what the world will try to tell you, many girls masturbate. There are a select few who will readily admit it, who will openly advocate for it even. There are also girls who will never mention it and make it their little secret. Some of the girls who were interviewed for this article admitted to me that they masturbate, but were too afraid to be quoted about it directly.
Shame around female masturbation is extremely harmful because it makes girls feel bad about their bodies and something as natural as pleasure. Girls should be able to be comfortable with their bodies, which is so hard when you’re a teenager. But with the world – and even adults in their lives – making them feel bad for pleasuring themselves and exploring their bodies, there’s just another layer of pressure on teen girls to conform to a certain idea of what a girl should be. Girls don’t need any more of that pressure put on them.
Getting to know your body as you get older is so important. It’s the only body you have, and with everyone around you spewing ideas about how it “should” look and work, it’s necessary for you to know and love your body. Masturbating can help make that happen. But if it’s not for you, that’s fine, too.
Masturbating has some wonderful health benefits that girls should be able to enjoy. For example, it can relieve stress and cramps. So people who seem to pile things on their plate can clear a little time to themselves to masturbate. It can make a world of difference. Gillian puts it simply: “It feels good, it makes you feel good.”
Not only does masturbation have health benefits, but it can also help you discover what it is you like sexually. Through masturbation, you can try different things and pinpoint what exactly feels good to you. This can make sex less intimidating, because when the time comes, you’ll be able to show your partner what it is you like. However, if you’re not ready to start having sex yet, but still feel the need to explore, masturbation is always there for you. It’s a safe way to feel pleasure and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can masturbate with no worries about getting pregnant or getting STDs. No other person is needed, just you making yourself feel good.
Hopefully in the near future, we’ll have a world full of Sarahs. It would be a world full of women who are empowered by themselves and the pleasure their bodies can give them, who are not ashamed to openly speak about masturbation with the men and women around them—a world where no one is afraid to embrace the sexual beings that we are.
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