A teenage girl feels shame and guilt wash over like waves as she explores her own body. A few miles away a teenage boy commits the same act but he does not feel anything close to sinful, he is elated, he is a man. The teenage girl is regarded as strange almost dirty, she is struggling under the weight of a stigma.
Growing up female masturbation seemed like a myth, something only males did but I was later shocked to learn that masturbation is not a male-specific activity. It’s a completely normal way of satisfying one’s sexual needs and exploring one’s body, yet for women, it is shrouded in a cloud of shame. Even in conversations with women masturbation is many times talked about in whispers or giggles or uncomfortable mumbles, yet it is as natural as any other bodily urge. It is not something naughty embarrassing but a natural occurrence.
If you are a female who masturbates you regarded as a deviant, sexual being perhaps even “promiscuous” but why does this stereotype persist? A teenage virgin could masturbate just as frequently as a sexually experienced middle-aged woman. This stereotype of what type of woman masturbates is not only incredibly false but another toxic form of slut-shaming.The same way there is often a double standard in dating and hook-ups, there is a double standard when it comes to masturbation.
It seems as if for men masturbation is a rite of passage, something expected for them as sexual beings but as women, we are supposed to be delicate beings with no sexual needs. And even if we have these sexual needs, they should be satisfied by a man rather than ourselves. This is inherently misogynistic and sexist, why are men encouraged to be sexual yet we must hide our sexual nature even from ourselves?
Women should be able to feel empowered to take control of their body and dictate their own pleasure without judgment from men or other women.
Now we have made progress in past years shedding some positive light on women’s sexuality but there is still a disproportionate amount of women who masturbate compared to men. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 36.5% of women aged 18-24 have not masturbated in the past year and only 7.3% masturbate around 2-3 times a week. In a stark contrast, only 18 percent of men aged 18-24 report not having masturbated in a year and 21 percent masturbate 2-3 times a week.
When men are encouraged to masturbate they explore their bodies and find out what makes them feel good, which allows them to guide their sexual partners with full knowledge of their bodies and sexuality. But when women are afraid to masturbate they are robbed of this knowledge, they don’t know what makes them feel good, how to orgasm and don’t feel as comfortable when they participate in sexual activities with another person. If masturbation were a trial run for sex, men have been practicing for years and women are just jumping into the race.
I am not saying all woman have to masturbate, it is a completely personal decision that one must make when they are comfortable and ready and no one should ever pressure you into making that decision. However, how can we expect women to ever feel completely comfortable masturbating, seeking advice or even talking about it all if it’s held under such a stigma?