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How I Learned to Stop Feeling Ashamed About Masturbating

Don’t let the patriarchy stop you from healthy pleasure.

Two fingers are inside a fruit and white liquid is coming out to symbolize a woman masturbating. #masturbation #masturbate
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Pexels

I learned how to masturbate at a young age, though I’m not sure how or why. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing at the time, just that I liked it and wanted to do it again. Even though I didn’t completely understand it, I knew I felt shame about it — especially since I had sexual thoughts about girls as a girl myself. I became more private, felt more guilty, and even tried to stop several times.

I mostly blame the lack of well-rounded sex education and the way many people push their harmful ideas about masturbation. I took a sex-ed class two or three times — at school and at church — and neither talked about masturbation at all, let alone in an affirming or informational way.

A girl in my seventh-grade class also didn’t help my shame: She threatened to talk loudly in class about me masturbating. The thing was, though, I’m not even sure if she knew I masturbated. I still hardly understood it and was trying to manage my shame. When I think about what could’ve caused her to behave in that way, I wonder if others had also threatened her similarly and she wanted a sense of power. Maybe she said I masturbated simply because she knew about all the shame we hold around it as a society and the power she could therefore gain with that threat.

In high school, my friends and I rarely talked about masturbation or sex. We talked about our crushes, sure, but more so in a fun, gossipy, lighthearted way. Probably still scared from middle school, I was reluctant to share my crushes even with my best friends, however.

In college, though, I became almost buried in hookup culture. Feeling sexually deprived (and human), I wanted to hook up with people. I wanted to have sex, and I wanted a relationship. In some situations, I felt like sex was required for a guy to like me or want to date me, so I did more than I ever would’ve believed I would do. My suitemates were also hooking up with people a lot and comparing experiences, and I didn’t want to feel left out. I became more comfortable with the idea and act of sex; I began to realize that it’s okay for women to want sex as much or more than men do.

While men are applauded for their hookups and “body count,” sexually active women are seen as dirty, slutty, or impure. Men are praised; women are shamed. Women’s bodies are objectified, and shame surrounds female sexuality. Shaming women’s sexuality is a way to control them and keep men in power — something I’m not interested in.

It’s also nothing new: Back in the 1800s and 1900s, male doctors and other individuals made up an anti-masturbation movement, claiming that masturbation could lead to a variety of illnesses — but only in women. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg — yes, like the cereal — even believed that flavorful foods caused sexual urges, and therefore created Cornflakes.

I can’t decide if I want to bust out laughing, cry, or never buy Kellogg’s cereal again.

Seriously, though, this shame can lead to eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction. Realizing the patriarchy’s role in this, and that my sexuality was just as valid as a man’s, was crucial to my development and perceptions.

And in that, I learned masturbation is totally normal, common, and human, and it can even be a great form of self-care, as wrote. Research and anecdotal evidence show that sexual pleasure through masturbation even has health benefits, like improved sleep, decreased stress, cramp relief, a mood boost, and more. And when you think about it, the sole purpose of the clitoris is pleasure — so I’d argue we’re meant to enjoy it.

I’ll always be thankful for my loved ones helping remind me of these truths. I don’t think people always realize how meaningful their words can be. Hearing my friends and peers talk freely about wanting sex, masturbating, and the best vibrators encouraged me to not hide from my sexuality, but to embrace it.

My girlfriend has also encouraged me in this way, reminding me that masturbating within a relationship is okay too. Your partner may not always want sex when you do, in which you can relieve that tension through masturbating. Plus, for sexual assault survivors like me, masturbating can feel more safe, easy, and pleasurable, no matter how kind my girlfriend is during sex. Masturbation is a way we can celebrate and enjoy “me time,” and it doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in our partner or their body. Masturbation and sex are two entirely different, but both great, ways to enjoy sexual pleasure.

If you struggle with shame around masturbation, I want you to do and remember this:

  1. Masturbating is a way to take care of your body and mind, keeping them healthy.
  2. Talk about masturbating as much as you can, because the more we talk about something that makes us feel ashamed, the less ashamed we begin to feel (and the less ashamed others feel).
  3. Masturbating is feminist, and those who place shame upon it aren’t trying to help us — or anybody — in any way.

Now go masturbate and live your best life. Let yourself feel pleasure rather than shame — like you’re supposed to and deserve to — and ignore the lying voices that tell you otherwise. Take it from me, someone who’s worked hard to learn this: You don’t need to feel guilty about masturbating.

This post was originally published on this site

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