By Miranda Weindling
I was born the same year that Salt-N-Peppa released ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’. An indisputable classic (in my opinion at least). Not just a great song to dance to––again, incontestable in my opinion––but an excellent singalong.
The lyrics call out media suppression of sex. They highlight the need to have conversations about it, the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly. Still, most importantly, it encourages ladies to talk about sex––with each other, in the media, and with their partners.
But now, 29 years later, it’s time to elevate women’s conversations from that three-letter word to a twelve-letter word. Masturbation.
Masturbation = Girl Power
As Caroline Criado Perez, last year’s winner of the Royal Society Science Book Award hammered home, we most definitely live in a world biased toward men. Particularly when it comes to our bodies and medical research; female, and I would add trans and gender-nonconforming, bodies are notoriously under-researched in science. But refreshingly there is an abundance of research out there explaining the health benefits of masturbation for women, physically and psychologically––beyond the obvious pleasure centred ones.
The release of endorphins experienced during masturbation act as mood lifters and stress-busters.An orgasm might even help you get a good night’s sleep. Masturbation also has the potential to tone your pelvic floor, your butt and inner thighs, as well as giving you a mini cardio workout. It can also help ease premenstrual cramps and is more fun than going to the gym or taking medication!
Masturbation is for all ages. Kids need to be taught that exploring their bodies is normal and healthy, and can support their sexual development. I believe that young people should be discovering themselves solo before they start sexually engaging with others. It teaches you what you like and dislike, giving you an indication of your boundaries before you invite another person into your most personal space. In menopausal and postmenopausal women, it can help to counterbalance painful intercourse and loss of libido.
If you are in a relationship, masturbation can also play a big role. Again, it gives you an indication of likes, dislikes and boundaries, while helping keep your libido active, particularly if you’ve hit a lull. Unlike what the movies tell you, climaxing during penetrative sex with no foreplay is the unicorn of sex, not the norm. But knowing what you need in the bedroom can help increase that chance––and if it doesn’t, then at least you know how to satisfy yourself on your own time. Everyone deserves satisfaction!
On a more sensitive note, it may be a helpful healing tool for some women who have experienced sexual assault. The healing journey for trauma survivors is different and challenging for each individual. What works for others may not work for you. If this approach resonates for you, then consider enlisting the support of an experienced trauma-informed sex therapist.
Regardless of your past sexual experiences, masturbation should be on your terms. And it should be empowering.
Less Thinking, More Doing: Taking Ownership Of Your Body
Does the g-spot exist? How much do you know about your clitoris––do you even know where it’s located? What’s a cervical orgasm? What sex toys should you get––do you even need them? And what are those seven erogenous zones Monica was going on about in Friends?!
Instead of getting that biology textbook out, or breaking the internet with your googling, I’m a believer in a much more, ahem, hands-on approach. Let your fingers do the talking!
Yes, there is a whole body of research, advice and toys out there when it comes to your pleasure, but it’s also way too easy to get stuck in your head about the whole thing. Part of creating a shame-free, empowered approach to sexuality and masturbation is making it an embodied process. This involves moving away from intellectual knowledge and into body awareness and wisdom. We often measure our bodies by what we see on the outside, much less how we feel within them. But this feeling centred approach is a way we can take ownership of our sexuality, which might influence how we engage with and see the world around us.
We are all unique, so it’s important to figure out what works for you. After all, taboos only get broken down by a range of people bringing their diverse experiences to the table and having frank, open conversations about them.
There’s still a lot that goes unsaid about masturbation, particularly when it comes to women. How comfortable and normalised it is for you may depend on your cultural and personal history. So yes, masturbation might improve your sex life, and possibly even your health, but it also might give you greater ownership of your sex, your body, and perhaps even your sense of self. Enjoy your body, it is the only one you have. So let’s talk about sex, baby…