Albert Marquet, 1905
Let’s talk about self love
I am a massive wanker.
I wank when I’m hungover. I wank when I’m at home alone in the middle of the afternoon and don’t have time for a nap. I’ve wanked at friends’ houses, if I’ve been staying over and no-one’s around. (I don’t walk in the door, take a seat, throw my feet on the table and start frigging. That would be rude.) During frenetic bouts of sexting I have wanked during my working day, which is the best bit of being freelance and makes doing your own tax return totally worth it.
Imagine how awful it would be if one could only wank in the bath. A bath filled with rose petals and scented, sensual oil. If it was impossible to reach orgasm without a minimum of eight candles and an aural backdrop of “soothing sounds of the forest IV”?
Because when ladymags stop telling you how to please your man, sometimes they start telling you how to please yourself. And holy fuck, you’re expected to be high maintenance. It turns out that idly rubbing your nipples through the fabric of your promotional Spiderman tee won’t do at all. You should be listening to special music or special underwear. You need to “invest” in a “toy” that costs upwards of £100 because you’re not valuing yourself enough if you just use your hands. Wanking should be more expensive and self conscious making than a spa trip. And you’re not meant to worry if you’re fantasising about George Clooney or Ryan Gosling. It doesn’t mean you want to cheat on your partner, it’s just that you have a healthy imagination. But you are meant to fantasise about George Clooney or Ryan Gosling.
Here’s what happens when I fantasise about George Clooney. I am standing on a beautiful, moonlit terrace looking out at Lake Como. The breeze is scented with hibiscus flowers. George wraps his arms around my waist and whispers in my ear “Baby, I think I’m gay. Would you like a Nespresso?” AND I DON’T COME.
As a teenage girl, I was thrilled to discover from magazines that giving myself orgasms wouldn’t make me go blind. But I was also certain that I was doing it wrong, I was anxious about my pocket money not covering a megabucks vibrator and I was absolutely certain that you weren’t supposed to masturbate on a creaky single bed with a Forever Friends duvet cover.
The reason that we need to write about getting ourselves off is this. I believe that teenage girls would be a hell of a lot happier if they knew a) how to sort themselves out and b) that it’s a totally normal thing to do. I still remember my friend Abbie swearing me to secrecy and telling me she could make herself orgasm but would only touch herself through her knickers “otherwise it’s disgusting”. (We spent quite some time discussing who we knew who was disgusting enough to touch themselves “properly”.) Wanking should not be a source of embarrassment, shame and despair. The sex you have with yourself is probably the safest sex you’ll ever have. It’s free entertainment, and you’ll never appreciate it more than when you’re not legally allowed to go to the pub. You’re much less likely to let some pervy person pressure you into doing something you’re not sure about if you know how to have a lovely time on your own. And if you meet someone you want to get down with, once you’ve figured out what you like you can tell them!
The country may be in the grip of 50 Shades Fever but lots of writers and readers are disappointed that the rudest thing we can get off to is a story about a girl being schlonged by her boss over a big stack of urgent reports. Surely fantasies should involve time travel, madly complicated hosiery and the sort of stuff that could get you arrested, deported or committed. Stuff you could never do in real life unless you gave up everything to join some kind of sex circus. The 50 Shades of Nay-sayers have a point – but at the same time, isn’t it brilliant that the current best selling books in the country were written for women to wank to?
If I was a teenage girl I might tire of Anastacia quickly – but I hope that for many teen girls, 50 Shades is a gateway drug that leads to Anais Nin and Almudena Grandes, Nicholson Baker and Jilly Cooper. That it gives a fertile erotic imagination space to grow and develop at its own pace, without being stunted by Youporn, fake nails and strip lighting. It took a good decade for me to be proud to enjoy my own company. If EL James is inspiring the next generation of joyful lady wankers she is worth every single dollar of her multi million pound fortune.