First of all, let me put it out there that I’m an avid masturbator. I’ve been masturbating since I was 11, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone a week without it. But even I can’t get behind a recent trend I’ve seen among sex-positive feminists: telling women to masturbate in order to be liberated and independent. On the most basic level, what we do with our bodies is our choice. But telling women what to do in this particular domain is problematic for its own set of reasons.
“When it comes to sex, there are no shoulds, beyond the basics: safe sex, consent, not doing harm,” clinical sexologist and relationship coach Claudia Six, PhD, author of Erotic Integrity: How To Be True To Yourself Sexually, tells Bustle. “So if you don’t want to masturbate, nobody in the world can pressure, shame, coerce you to do so. Period. And there is such a thing as Basic Sexual Rights, which state that ‘the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.’ That includes not doing anything you don’t want to do, regardless of what others may think.”
While I haven’t seen anyone outright try to coerce someone into masturbation, I have heard people talk about masturbation in a way that makes it sound like it’s the best choice for everyone, which can subtly pressure people into it. During times when I’ve cut back on masturbation, I’ve felt the need to defend this decision to some of my friends — and I shouldn’t have to. Here are some reasons it’s totally OK not to masturbate if you don’t want to.