13 Reasons Masturbation Is A Feminist Act
Last night, I did something I hadn't done in a few weeks. With my partner out of the apartment and a few hours to kill before blogging about the GOP debate, I found myself in the same foul mood I'd been in all day. When even baking green tea brownies and watching Transparent didn't seem to cure my PMSing state of mind, I realized I had another option: I could masturbate.
I fired up the Hitachi for a solid hour, and gave myself about 10 orgasms (because Magic Wand). By the time I had to log on to work the debate, I found I had more focus and patience than usual for what has got to be one of my least-favorite activities: watching Donald Trump speak.
I was pleased with myself. (Heh.) Because even though it has been proven that masturbation has numerous physical and psychological benefits, the fact remains that there is still a lot of stigma, misinformation, and ignorance out there about women and masturbation. Which is exactly why masturbation itself is a feminist issue.
All of the rights that feminism is fighting for — equality with men, sexual liberation, self-acceptance — can be tapped into, in fact, must be tapped into, through this fun and potentially revolutionary act. Masturbating is about owning our own bodies, our own sexuality, and our own independence. The very personal, in this case, is also the very political.
Not convinced? Here are 13 reasons why I believe masturbation is nothing short of a radical feminist act.
1. It Helps Close The Orgasm Gap
Have you heard of the orgasm gap? It's much like the gender pay gap, only the inequality it refers to is the fact that statistically, women worldwide are having fewer orgasms than men. According to data from a 2007/08 Durex survey, Russia and Thailand have the largest orgasm gap. They are followed closely behind by us losers in the good old U-S-of-A and Canada.
Just as asking for a raise is a feminist act that helps close the pay gap, so too can you consider masturbating a small act that helps close the orgasm gap. Not only will you be having more orgasms on your own, but you'll also be better equipped to know what you need to close the orgasm gap during partnered sex.
2. It Helps You Feel More Body Positive
For all the much-needed talk about self-acceptance and body positivity that many of us engage in, we don't tend to acknowledge the clear link between erotic self-love and loving yourself. But the connection is real — if you don't take the time to turn yourself on and admire your own body, it's just that much harder to truly accept and love it, no matter how many self-affirming selfies you post.
As I've written before, one of the most important ways I taught myself to love my body again after a period of disordered eating was through masturbation. It reminded me that I was sexy, that I could nourish myself, and that I am powerful.
3. It Requires A Room Of One's Own
Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own is a seminal feminist work that asserts the need for women to have a private space of their own in order to write. Though Woolf didn't talk about masturbation explicitly, she did speak of the need for women to break free from the confines of chastity. “Chastity ... has, even now, a religious importance in a woman's life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest.” Consider this a marching order from Virginia Woolf herself to claim your space — and your sexuality — in a room of your own.
When I have the house to myself and masturbate, I feel I am owning my space in a way that I simply can't when I'm sharing it with my partner. It reminds me that the room we share is equally mine, and that I have enough energy, sexuality, and presence to fill it up all on my own.
4. Because You Shouldn't Depend On A Partner For All Your Orgasms
More than once, I've talked to female friends in tumultuous relationships, where the sex was supposedly "really hot" ... only to then hear them admit that they didn't masturbate. Unsurprisingly, these women tended to hang on to these ailing relationships longer than friends who were more sexually independent.
Any time you put all your orgasms in another person's basket, you're putting yourself in the potentially problematic position of forgetting that you are also capable of giving yourself pleasure (and losing perspective on how good your partner actually is in bed, simply because you're so horny). We all understand why it's important to be financially independent— but being sexually independent is arguably just as crucial.
It's not to say you shouldn't enjoy partnered sex or ever depend on someone — I know I do — but a strong, independent woman should also strive to remember that she is always capable of making her own toes curl.
5. Because Women Aren't Told To Master Technique
Out of all the many fabulous sex advice columns Bustle's own Vanessa Marin has written, do you know which one consistently gets some of the most hits? Her article on How To Masturbate, Female Style. Thousands of women are Googling "how to masturbate" every day, which means two things: lots of women don't know how to pleasure themselves — and lots of women are eager to learn.
That gives me tremendous hope, but it also makes me feel sad that so many women don't know how to masturbate. I'm not surprised, though. Some of us were told it was weird, gross, unfeminine, or unnecessary as women to spend much time perfecting our technique. Others were taught, whether explicitly or implicitly, that it should be a secret. Because of all this, exploring what works for you sends a big F-U to the patriarchal bullshit that has told us to lie back and think of England for centuries.
6. It Helps You Feel More Comfortable Being Alone
Most of us are not that comfortable with being alone. We're usually on our phones, with partners and friends, or watching TV — or often, all three at once — just to avoid having to be alone with ourselves. There's no denying that masturbation pushes you to be more comfortable with being alone, and simply focusing on the present moment.
As women, this is especially important, since we've historically ended up in some pretty bad situations when we don't believe that we ourselves, just as we are, are enough.
7. It Helps Reaffirm That Sex Isn't Just About Penetration
Sure, you might use a dildo and still need penetration to get off when you're masturbating; but the point is, if you're a woman who sleeps with men, you can sometimes forget that penetration doesn't have to be the piece de resistance. Most of us need clitoral stimulation in order to come, and I know that I figured out that I needed to ask for it during penetrative sex through my experience masturbating. When you get more comfortable touching yourself, you'll feel more confident giving directions or helping yourself get there during sex.
8. It Helps You Feel More Creative And Focused
Orgasms — and the dopamine they release — are thought to help you make better decisions. As Bustle's Gina Florio explained in an article on the surprising benefits of the female orgasm, they also stimulate creativity and focus. "Because we have multi-orgasmic powers that men lack, we are theoretically able to reach a major brain high after good sex that carries us through the rest of the day. It's no wonder dopamine has been called the ultimate feminist chemical."
You know the rush she's talking about — and so do many of your favorite female authors. "The most influential female writers and poets and artists from the Victorian and Edwardian era constantly gave us hints in their work about the sexual awakening that accompanied their incredible productivity in the arts," Florio continues. "With all the dopamine and oxytocin stomping around in our bodies after orgasm, women often become more intuitive, more positive, and more energized after orgasm."
9. Because Women Used To Be Called "Hysterical" For Feeling Horny & Depressed
It wasn't just the Victorians who treated "hysteria" with masturbation. As early as 200 AD, doctors were rubbing women out to treat everything from psychosis to standard depression to the terrible affliction of complex, feminist thinking. The practice only continued from there, and is even responsible for the invention of the first vibrator in 1734.
While this practice was obviously highly problematic, it was also onto something: if we don't have a sexual release, most of us will go crazy. But the problem isn't our "hysteria"—rather, it's often the patriarchy, and the normalization of widespread female sexual frustration. So don't buy into the idea that you're somehow "damaged" if you're feeling frustrated or angry. Instead, try to come for yourself on the regular — and then see how you feel.
10. Because People Still Think It's Mostly A "Guy" Thing
There is still a stigma around female masturbation. I felt it when I wrote this intro and admitted to masturbating last night; reading it over, I worried I might come off as sharing TMI. If you take a look at any male comedian or writer's work, that is simply not a fear they appear to have. Because masturbation is assumed to be a universal, near-daily male act, mentions of it are almost as benign as talking about the weather.
As Bustle's Gabrielle Moss put it in her article about masturbating every day for a week, "All my male friends talk about masturbating the way you'd talk about eating an apple because you're hungry. My female friends, I realize, typically talk about masturbation as part of making a political statement about women's sexuality or a joke — if they talk about it at all."
In a recent University of Chicago study, only 41 percent of women admitted to masturbating in the last year. Can you imagine if only 41 percent of men admitted they'd masturbated in the course of an entire year? Exactly.
11. It's An Essential Part Of Self-Care
Owning your sexuality as an essential element of your emotional and physical health is a big part of what feminism is all about.
The health benefits of masturbation abound: it boosts the immune system, helps prevent cervical and urinary infections, it helps fight stress and anxiety by creating a flood of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, it tones your pelvic muscles, it eases cramps and back aches, it's a sleep aid, it increases pain tolerance, and it may even make you less prone to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
We spend plenty of time talking about other elements of self-care, like conditioning hair masks and yoga, and masturbation should be no different.
12. It Helps Create More Demand For Feminist Porn
Already, sites like MakeLoveNotPorn are stepping in to provide feminist porn that doesn't focus on the male gaze. The more women masturbate, the more their products will be in demand — and the more feminist our porn will be.
13. It Helps You Appreciate The Female Body's Power
Unlike men, when women have a good masturbation sesh, we have the potential to come many, many times. Yet many of us don't remember to take advantage of this superpower. If you're having sex with men, you might come once or a couple of times, if your partner has the stamina. But when you're on your own, you don't have to stop until you feel like it — which might help you appreciate your own amazing capacity for mounting pleasure. (Fun fact: The "winner" of Denmark's 2009 Masturbate-a-thon was a woman who came 226 times in one day. The male record that day was a mere eight orgasms.)
Beyond that, while men may lose their ability to orgasm as they age, a 2012 study found that nearly half of all women aged 80 and older still orgasmed most of the time they engaged in sexy-time activities. Orgasms are one of those rare situations where women have the clear edge — so why shouldn't you take advantage of it?
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Images: Bustle; Giphy