Pregnancy pics, Oprah, it's clear Meghan Markle is calling the shots. Here's why that's great
It’s My Pleasure Series
Why you should invest more time (and money) in your solo sex life
The It’s My Pleasure column is a series of articles exploring female intimacy. It discovers the nuances of solo sex, of personal sexual liberation journeys, and most importantly, aims to change our outdated views on female pleasure.
In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have witnessed a sexual revolution in society, which, personally, is my favourite kind of uprising. A decade ago, out-loud utterances of sexual stories, questions or advice would have been batted away and shamed. But somewhere around the last five years, we collectively agreed that talking honestly about sex was important, particularly when promoting safety, and this this openness helped us to understand when things weren’t quite right in the bedroom. Now, we’re unafraid to tell our partners they’re not making us orgasm enough, we’ll purchase sexy lingerie and give Instagram a preview before date night, and we’re confident enough to share personal details with friends or even family members. We’ve reached a comfortable point where investing time and money into our sex lives is encouraged.
But what about masturbation? It’s still considered taboo, even shameful, to be dedicated to enriching your relationship with alone time. So, did the revolution cease before the hard work was truly complete?
I remember the day I got my first vibrator. It was April 1st, 2017, and I was 20. Way too far into my life, in my opinion, to just be trying my first sex toy. My boyfriend had just moved to another town, and we were giving it a shot at a long-distance relationship, something I hoped wasn’t an elaborate April Fool’s joke. After I helped him load up the removals van, I begrudgingly walked home to find a press parcel outside my door. As a journalist, I receive a lot of these PR parcels. This one was arranged and was from a large, well-known sex shop company with whom I exchanged my address for a gifted product. I expected it would be lingerie. I was surprised to unravel the box and find a mains-powered magic wand vibrator. You know, the one that’s about 10 inches long with a whizzing head equipped with around 10 settings. Slightly embarrassed, I took a picture of it and sent it to my mum with the note “well, it’s not lingerie!”. She enthusiastically replied “Give it to me! They’re fucking expensive!” Sure enough, these types of giant vibrators go for around £50-£60, some even retailing at over £100.
Two things came to my mind as I unboxed this giant toy. The first was how hilariously convenient it was that an unexpected masturbation tool turned up the day my boyfriend left town. The second? How I would never spend this kind of money on a vibrator.
It was baffling to me that there were people out there spending their disposable income on expensive toys when our own hands are free to use. There was something strange and machine-like to me about administrating mains-operated orgasms, as though I was a dirty robot undergoing a very horny power-charging routine.
But the longer my partner was away and the less I had sex with another person, the more intimate I learned to be with myself. I eventually gained the courage to try the vibrator, messing with the settings to be as quiet as possible without dimming its capabilities (these things are not exactly student share-house friendly) and quickly built a masturbation routine that fulfilled me, that I had fun with, and was most importantly, just as fun as sex with my boyfriend.
I came to love my vibrator a bit like a rubber friend. Sure, this particular model being my first was like jumping straight into the deep end without learning how to swim, but every cheaper or less versatile toy I’ve used since has been like sleeping with my vibrator’s ugly cousin. A year later, still with the same boyfriend and same trusty toy, it’s mystifying to me that I could have ever considered buying a sex toy a waste of money. The magic wand is effective in making me orgasm within 80 seconds, plus more if I fancy them. So, why didn’t I think it was worth its price-point? Why was it okay to drop £150 on lingerie for a hopeful hook-up date, but I couldn’t fathom investing in my own pleasure? The misogyny I’d internalised kept me from realising something integral to my sexual wellbeing; that exploring my sexuality alone is equally as important as strengthening intimacy with a partner.
This realisation opened the door to recontextualising everything I’d been taught about female pleasure. Looking back on my conversations about sex as a teenager, on my guidance from friends, and even on my sex education classes, I realised I’d never been encouraged to seek pleasure alone. No one had ever explicitly informed me it was a possibility. Sex had been unendingly described to me as an act done via penetration.
Over the last year, I’ve unintentionally but gratefully surrounded myself with sexually liberated, feminist friends. I studied sexual liberation religiously, I read books and blogs and watched films and videos created by empowered women. In my life, masturbation became not only normalised, but celebrated. Amongst friends, we’d compare stories, recommend toys, and laugh at each other’s mishaps without judgment. I came to understand something the patriarchy has tried to keep locked in a box for centuries; orgasms are different for every single person. Orgasms are achieved in different ways and supported by different toys. More importantly, I learned that it’s healthy to masturbate and it’s okay to have fun and experiment with it.
After years of prioritising often-lacklustre attempts to climax with a partner over giving myself a guaranteed orgasm, it feels very decadent to own a device for precisely just that. I know now, that this stems from an internalised belief that women and self-indulgence mustn’t go hand-in-hand – but I’m working on shaking that idea, one buzz at a time.
It’s time for women to start treating our solo sex lives as seriously as sex with a partner. Change things up with new positions, bring in sex toys, use lube and other fun products, you can even talk dirty to yourself. I recommend investing in yourself and dropping a few pounds on a magic wand.