The Vagenda

Masturbation Nation


Masturbation Nation, or how mainstream culture forgot the woman’s wank

Why is it that masturbation seems to be the domain of men? We’re told endlessly that young boys need to get their rocks off, subjected to TV comedy shows that talk of teenager’s sheets literally cracking in half from caked-on semen, and fed joke after suggestive joke about piles of tissues on boys’ beside tables. Now, I’m all for wondering sardonically whether every nineteen year old lad really suffers from ‘night-time hay fever’. but bitches, please: where are all the cultural references to us giving something back to number one?

It seems to me that the huge boner of male puberty has been obscuring female desire for a little too long. Because although we all seem to have agreed that men tugging on their bits doesn’t make them blind after all, everyone seems a little bit – well – embarrassed at the idea of those delicate little girls just out of school uniform enjoying a bit of sexy exploration themselves. Sex ed still seems a bit squeamish about mentioning it, instead leaning heavily towards the boys – and you may as well keep waiting for any Hollywood reference to female fannying around, with ‘boys and tissues’ getting a regular look-in these days, where girls wander around in pretty little skirts and morph innocently from sweet young rosy-cheeked things into lovely slices of marriage material or generic sluts obsessed with men. Either way, their sexualities revolve around waiting for whoever’s penis will come along to fill the hole in their lives (ahem) that they can’t fulfill themselves.

Women’s magazines discuss masturbation in the context of ‘finding out how to make sex with your boyfriend better’, but lads’ mags might have it right here, in their riotous celebration of self-love and all its fodder. The soft porn proffered by Zoo and Nuts has no guilty little disclaimer on it stating that this might make you ‘enjoy making love to your girlfriend’ more. The problem pages aren’t the only places where masturbation comes up, wrapped up nicely in a saccharine package of ‘getting to know your body’ so you can ‘pass on the tips to your partner.’ What about just, like, having an orgasm because you feel like it? Because you’re tired or you’re hungry and there’s no food around, or because you have a guilty crush on some really inappropriate friend, or because that kid from Twilight has got just about old enough to fancy? Does everything have to be about planning ahead for when an actual dick gets stuck into you? Because I thought we were living in an age when even women were allowed to do DIY.

Masturbation has been ruined by that wonderful concept ‘feminine mystique’, which has been almost unexpectedly detrimental to the wider feminist cause. Those sweet, ethereal beings wouldn’t do anything as human as masturbate, surely! Thank goodness – then let’s not bother producing any cultural material that supports the fact that female masturbatory practice exists. Let’s never mention it again.

Day after day, we see women with impossibly long tongues lolling out of their mouths as they crawl through Ann Summers advertorial, but we hear very little of actual, realistic sexual experiences normal to women everywhere. Whips and chilli-based lube are almost supermarket talking points, but even a decade after the Rampant Rabbit was famously celebrated by the characters of Sex and the City, wanking women are still barely producing a whisper on the sex scene. One of the consequences of this is that porn continues to be totally shit for women, so we need to change something before we actually die from saturation of repetitive, objectifying gang bangs that make women touching themselves look like cheeky little minxes putting on a show for their male counterparts.

Come on out, girls, and admit that masturbation is a fun part of your sexuality that is all your own, and doesn’t need to be legitimised as ‘practice sex.’ Men cast away those aspersions years ago now, and we’re lagging disappointingly behind. Let’s hear it for a masturbation nation!

24 thoughts on “Masturbation Nation

  1. It’s funny, because I’ve always though male masturbation as considered seedy and furtive whereas for girls it was “right on sister!”. There’s a fascinating section in “The New Hite Report” where different women describe the ways they like to get themselves off, which only serves to emphasise that each woman is different…

    Amongst my ex g/fs, some were keen on self pleasuring but others insisted they never did. I’ve never heard the ‘preparation for real sex’ argument before – but in any case I don’t buy it – if you’re going to play with someone else surely you don’t want them to recapitulate your own techniques but to come up with something quite different and exciting?

    • I disagree – it’s definitely good to know what you like already and have full control over experimenting with new techniques. No reason why partners can’t go beyond that but I’m fully in favour of exploratory wanking. However, as the post says, that shouldn’t be the only socially accepted reason.

  2. If you liked this blogpost you may enjoy Sex for One by Betty Dodson, it’s a brilliant book about the joys of masturbation, aimed mostly at cis women but with some interesting stuff on cis male masturbation too. There is nothing explicitly aimed at tramp people, unfortunately, but it is LGB-friendly.

    • I assume this refers to the “what you think about when you fantasise” department, in which most sex manuals for both men and women assume heterosexuality, and so can come across (even if it’s not deliberate) as rather excluding if you’re not het.
      I also assume Harriet’s spell-checker added the “tramp people” and she actually meant “trans” :).

    • oh, I’d thought a masturbation book would be about physical things to do to yourself as fantasy is so unpredictably individualistic!

    • Oops thanks Padma, well spotted – smartphones are great but I make so many typos!

      The book includes material on masturbating while in a relationship, with and without your partner, and a lot of it is about/aimed at women living very heteronormative lives, but the author wants it to be relevant to gay and bi people too. A good chunk of the book is about anatomy with assumptions that the reader is cis, so probably not ideal if you’re not cis. It was written in the 70s I think so maybe there is something better that is more recent – this is a classic though.

  3. Thanks for a really interesting article. The only problem I have, as a woman, is with the word itself. Somehow ‘wank’ just doesn’t seems to cut it for a woman’s engagement with and indulgence in her own personal sexual experience. I am yet to find a suitable alternative!

  4. This was a wonderfully written article! I’m so pleased I found this blog.

    I too have a problem with the word ‘wank’ it just doesn’t seem to be the right explanation but I guess that could have something to do with this male masturbation culture… it feels like ‘their’ word?

    • I think that is partly it Mel. I (and I’m sure many of my female friends) don’t feel like we have any ownership over the word, and also it just doesn’t seem to be a good enough description. ‘Wank’ is way too coarse!

    • “it feels like ‘their’ word?”

      are you advocating gendered language as in Japanese ? Words belong to us all and are very democratic – you don’t have to use the ones you don’t like and you’re free to punt new ones at any time!

    • my hobbies are drawing and photography (which is why I asked for an address to send you a postcard), and mountain biking, however when I’m at work I need some light relief :)

      I’m interested in sexual equality because it seems so obvious to me, and the articles on here are engaging…

    • Gillian, of course – but I think the solution is to adopt that gendered language and thereby degender it rather than foster the apartheid!

    • “Wank” does actually refer to male masturbation almost 100% of the time (even in that oracle, Urban Dictionary… *rolls eyes*) I prefer to “frig”

    • so we’re to challenge sexual discrimination except in language where it must be rigidly complied with ? IMO language is endlessly malleable and can be influenced!

  5. It was a completely taboo subject among my female friends until I was in my 20′s, and even at that I can count the amount of conversations I had about female masturbation. As teenagers nobody would admit to it, and as a grown up other women seemed to think if they ‘outed’ themselves then they would seem desperate to their friends, as in ‘I’m having so much amazing sex I don’t need to do that’.

    Which is completely ridiculous, no matter how much or how little sex you have you should always have a little ‘me’ time now and then.

    Maybe the lack of media discussion about it links back to this insane idea that men can’t help themselves, that they have a much higher and animal sex drive. That it is something so powerful it’s beyond their control, a sad excuse that is used to explain cheating husbands. Whereas women are portrayed as controlled sexual beings, that our sex drive is there to lure and catch a good man and nothing else, not about our own sexual gratification. Hence the lack of need to masturbate. Again I repeat; insane idea.

    • I think there’s also some impact here of a social presumption (and, on balance, it’s probably not that far from the truth, but that’s another discussion) that men chase and women are chased. Therefore, if men are having a “dry spell” they can have a wank as a backup option, whereas women can more easily get laid. It follows that only a truly desparate women would need or want to self-indulge.

      Utterly nonsensical of course.

  6. “It was a completely taboo subject among my female friends “

    IME it’s the same or even less discussed for men, and considered rather shameful as it means you couldn’t get a shag :(

  7. Although the culture references for male masturbation far outweigh the female ones (obviously) I find that men don’t talk about wanking amongst themselves. In my experience male friends are far more embarrassed to discuss it that female friends. We all talk about wanking a lot.

    Also, I love the word “wank” for girls. It’s so kickass. “Touching myself” sounds horribly seedy, just like “flower” is an atrocious word for vagina. It’s a body part, you wank – deal with it.

  8. I’m not sure that masturbation is presented as the preserve of boys except in the most banal mainstream media and surely we all know better than to let that determine our worldview. Then again, maybe I just know a lot of very out women who are comfortable with their sexuality and think nothing of talking about wanking. It’s true that this was not always the case. In my teens I was a champion masturbator but would rather have DIED than admit to it. I’m sure your point about sex education being inadequate is fair. More recently, Girl With A One-Track Mind wrote with wit and intelligence about the joys of rubbing one out, but women have been talking about wanking for decades: Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a collection of women’s sexual fantasies, was a bestseller in the 70s! If I can think of one reason why I don’t talk about masturbation more often it’s probably that I’ve already had that conversation and simply take it for granted.

  9. None of my friends will talk about it so I didn’t. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy me time a lot but nobody asks me, probably because they think I’m uptight and prudish that I’m incapable of some self exploration and fiddling. Little do they know…

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