07/03/2014 12:33 GMT | Updated 07/05/2014 06:59 BST

The Masturbation Movement

As International Women's Day approaches this weekend, we celebrate the past achievements of female liberation and continue to challenge the status quo for equality.

In the spirit of this year's theme, 'Inspiring Change', a campaign has been launched to challenge the position of hetero-patriarchal notions of female sexuality.

Despite the strength of female empowerment, there remains one last taboo silenced in society. It is time to change and have a relevant, intelligent conversation about self-pleasure, and face the naked truth that females masturbate.

Female sexuality is something very separate to males'. Within a society of patriarchy, there's masturbation and then there's female masturbation. Somewhere along the line it has become accepted that men masturbate, but seen as almost freakish and scandalous for a woman.

As the 106th Woman's Day approaches, today's western society has become hypersexualised. Not only is sex used a sellable instrument, but also according to the Representation Project, 97% of the creatives in advertising are male. As mainstream media continue to be ignorant to the idea of sexually independent women, a manufactured taboo is endured in the 21st century.

Sex expert Dr. Betty Dobson said, "Masturbation is the foundation for all human sexuality." Yet the sexism that exists within this act shames many females who report not being comfortable with the pleasure power of their own bodies.

In a recent study I conducted using over 170 students at the University of Westminster, it was disheartening to find that 46% of women reported feelings of guilt and shame associated with masturbation.

The study found that, though masturbation is connected to physical and mental health benefits, many participants held a lot of anxiety towards the stigma.

A further study into the emotions linked with self-pleasure was found through a focus group of 18-25 year olds. The women expressed their awareness of a patriarchal fear of female sexual empowerment. A member of the focus group said, "It should be as normal to talk about masturbation, as you would any other sexual experience are more likely to admit they have been masturbating then women because there is so much social stigma, which I don't know where it comes from."

The participants shared a reluctance to tell their partners of their self-pleasuring behaviour, in fear that he would feel sexually "unneeded or emasculated".

The focus group recognised a social stigma and expressed a desire for normalisation.

Independent of a male views, some women expressed guilt from the ideologies of religion and culture. A catholic member said; "I always felt guilty for not confessing to it. Masturbation is a massive sin." Others expressed a feeling of shame for the inability to produce an orgasm; "I can't do it for myself, when I try and fail there is a shit and guilty feeling."

Despite these opinions of students, an American academic study released in December 2013 found a promising result about female masturbation. Christin P. Bowman revealed that despite the stigmatised nature of masturbation, 91.8% of participants in the study didn't feel selfish about pleasuring themselves.

Bowman found 'the study demonstrated that sex-positive women experience feelings of sexual empowerment from masturbating.' The sexual empowerment feelings included power, strength, independence and satisfaction.

The study of 765 women suggested that women are more likely to feel sexually empowered by masturbation if they report being more sexually efficacious, have higher genital self-image, and masturbate for sexual pleasure or to learn more about their bodies.

If we could use masturbation as a symbol of feminism, an instrument of defiance against oppression, we could end the stigma and liberate women's sexuality. Women should be encouraged to explore their sexuality and take it into their own hands, literally.

And so to honour International Women's Day it is a time to admire the social achievements of women of the past, present and the goals we set for the future of female empowerment. Ladies, you know what to do.