Everybody does it. Me, you, your parents – even your grandparents did it, but probably with more guilt. That’s right, masturbation is universal.
Teenage boys are particularly infamous for it. I confirm, from my own personal experience, that this is a well-deserved reputation. But I can equally assert, from knowing quite a lot of girls (the effeminate kid at school always has plenty of female friends, you see), that girls have much the same tendency for self-pleasure.
Yet no-one really talks about women doing it. There are far less phrases in common usage that refer to women spending quality time with themselves: “flicking the bean” and “frigging” are the only ones that spring to mind. Men, on the other hand, have a multitude of gender-specific terms at their disposal; like “Choking the chicken,” “Bashing the bishop,” and “Playing with my one-eyed trouser snake.” Why the imbalance?
We’re simply just not as comfortable with talking about female pleasure as we are with male pleasure. Sure, we’re taking steps forward with the popularity of shops like Ann Summers, and the almost universal awareness of the rampant rabbit & its fellows – but there is still a huge gap between approaches to male and female sexuality.
The denial of female sexual pleasure has always been one of the key aspects of any culture that wants to subjugate women. To make someone ashamed of their own body, and their sexuality in particular, is a terribly effective method of control. I know women who still have difficulty with their sexuality because no-one told them that there’s nothing wrong with playing with themselves.
Fortunately, we’re slowly breaking down both the taboo of talking about sexuality, and inequality between genders. Part of the key to that is sex education – we’re teaching kids about how their bodies change during puberty, and we don’t expect them to figure out how sex works for themselves so much any more. But we still seem to be a bit shy about teaching people, particularly girls, that sex is fun.
And sex is fun! We should be teaching this, both in school and in societal attitudes. That’s not to say we shouldn’t teach them that it can be deeply emotional, have dramatic consequences and requires careful safety measures – but we should also be teaching both young boys and girls that it feels good, even if you’re only having sex with yourself.
Originally published in The Skinny, page 35, issue 75, December 2011 – http://issuu.com/theskinny/docs/issuu_75_-_the_skinny