May is National Masturbation Month - an excuse, if ever one were needed, to talk about the subject from a woman’s perspective.
While the media and locker-room banter may have us believing that this is a traditionally male pass-time, research shows that the majority of women have, at some stage, engaged in self pleasure. What we do not tend to do however, is talk about it. In an era that encourages us to overshare and embrace our own sexual empowerment, conversations about relationships flow freely. When we are with our girlfriends, we have no problem discussing our partners, our sex life – or all too often the lack thereof - weak bladders, bowel movements, embarrassing bodies – you name it. Indeed, comparing our experiences and getting insight and advice is part of what makes membership of the sisterhood so compelling.
Given the openness with which we women talk about our personal lives, the act of ‘self pleasure’ is almost conspicuous in its absence from the conversation. But why is it so important? Self pleasure is about understanding our own bodies, knowing what works and even more importantly, what doesn’t. If we do not know how best to satisfy ourselves how can we guide our partner?
By avoiding the subject and refusing to discuss it, with even our closest friends, we make it taboo, this feeds our feelings of guilt and shame which further prevent us from talking about what is, in reality, a healthy and completely normal act.
Through my work I have been involved in countless conversations with a wide variety of wonderful women whose insight has helped to inform many of the products we sell. And yet, no matter how comfortable they may seem or how intimate the chat becomes, the topic of solo stimulation still seems a step too far – unless that is, you approach it from the perspective of adult toys. Whether big or small, pink or blue, for him for her, external or internal, vibrators have changed the conversation. I have found women to be not only open about discussing the tools they own, but almost proud, as if owning a vibrator were a symbol of sexual empowerment; as if the vibrator and its transition from taboo to mainstream (thank you Sex and The City) has given us all permission to pleasure ourselves until the cows come home.
Where there is any embarrassment, it seems to come from those who haven’t yet taken the plunge. As it already is for men, what I would love to see is the normalisation of female masturbation. Modern sex education is tackling the subject head on which is certainly a step in the right direction for tomorrow’s women but for the rest of us we need to know that masturbation is not just a tool for spicing up your sex life, it is a standalone act, something women do in the privacy of their own bedrooms because they want to – not to please anyone but themselves.