Throughout this year, a notable change in conversations around sex is the way we discuss masturbation. The dialogue has evolved for the better, hinting at a more promising and inclusive future. There’s, of course, still plenty of work to do, but the efforts of feminist activists and those communicating honestly with each other have resulted in an understanding of something simple, but long misunderstood: Women. Wank. Too.
It’s true. Women masturbate, we really like it actually, and 2019 is the first time we’ve seen it be not only announced, but proudly celebrated in the way it deserves to be. Only a few years ago, the very idea that women masturbate when they’re horny (or stressed, or sad, or sleepy) was socially bewildering.
From childhood, it’s made clear that the value of a woman’s pleasure is less than that of men. When a young man starts to masturbate, its seen as a coming of age inevitability, while for young women, it’s a shame-coated elephant in the room. Masturbation is a gendered issue, and as female masturbation has become more accepted, we seem to enjoy it differently to our male counterparts. For many women, it’s now an integral step in our self-care routines, and a way to reconnect with our bodies. For a long time, masturbation was perceived as something to do in the absence of sex, but for many women, it’s something much more personal, and even self-healing.
‘Self-care’ has been something of a buzz-word in the last two years, but its intersection with masturbation is something relatively new. The blend of masturbation and self-care has even impacted retail. According to a recent report by Technavio, the sexual wellness market is likely to grow by approximately $18 billion by 2022. The market for sex toys has morphed into an incredibly competitive landscape, and with the rise of feminism (and female-led sextech brands), companies are being encouraged to put their sex-positive boots on and kick their sex toys out of the ‘family planning’ aisle and into the mainstream market. While this is simply a smart marketing move for most companies, it means women can have a positive consumer experiences purchasing sex toys without shame. Last October, Sainsbury’s responded to this demand by beginning to sell sex toys in the health and beauty section of their stores. So, in 2019, surely every woman should be feeling encouraged to incorporate masturbation into their wellbeing routine?
Grace Victory – a blogger, YouTuber, content creator and trainee counsellor – has accumulated a quarter of a million followers through her content, which has been celebrated for her raw honesty when it comes to sexual topics, whether they be masturbation, partnered sex, or sexual health. Victory believes masturbation is an important act of self-care and has spoken about it openly on her platforms. She believes personal intimacy and healing goes hand-in-hand, and that her sexual self is part of her power. “Due to the patriarchal world we live in, so many of us have had that power silenced or shamed. Sex and masturbation are natural, and yet we’ve been consistently told that it’s dirty or only for male gratification. God forbid women to enjoy sex and find it pleasurable!”
Victory prioritises time to be intimate with herself in the same way she would with a partner, suggesting we all do the same. It’s a crucial time to re-connect with our bodies, especially after a difficult or emotional day. “So, I always make time for myself to masturbate, partly because I’m a really horny person, haha! I think it’s important for us all to have individual sex lives. Masturbating is a time to explore your body in a compassionate, loving and safe way.”
Masturbation has proven to be more beneficial for our wellbeing than society has let us believe. Information produced by Planned Parenthood tells us that “negative feelings about masturbation can actually threaten our well-being. Only you can decide whether masturbation is right for you, but there is no reason to feel ashamed or guilty about it. If you do experience these feelings, talking with a trusted friend or sex educator may help.”
Planned Parenthood’s website also lists an array of benefits masturbation can aid, including creating a sense of well-being, improving relationships and sexual satisfaction; improving sleep; increasing self-esteem; improving body image and reducing stress. It can even relieve menstrual cramps, strengthen pelvic muscles. Another recent study suggests that for women, masturbating can flush old bacteria from the cervix, decreasing the chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).
For many women, masturbation has proved to be healing, particularly if they’ve undergone traumatic experiences or have struggled with disconnecting from themselves physically. Grace Latter is a writer, model and content creator, who writes about sex regularly on her blog. Latter believes masturbation is an important part of her life, and a fool-proof method for checking in with herself each day: “I reflect on my day, work out how I’m feeling, and I’ll often masturbate! It’s important to take care of myself, and a good wank is one of the best ways to do that!” Latter also believes in the deep-healing properties of masturbation on mental wellbeing. “Every time I’ve come home after a long time in the hospital, in recovery after major surgery, I’ve had to wait to feel strong enough to pleasure myself again. Every time I’ve worked up the strength to do it, after weeks without, it’s quite magical. If nothing else, it signals to me that I’m properly on the road to recovery.”
Victory also notes that masturbation has played an important part in her healing journey and has been a great way for her to care for herself. “Masturbation can be a way for sexual assault survivors to reclaim and relearn about their sexual self on their own terms. It can be so fulfilling and empowering,” says Victory. Regardless of personal difficulties, we should all be prioritising time to be intimate with ourselves. It’s a crucial time to re-connect with our bodies, whether that’s through a particular mental health challenge, or after a difficult day.
Ultimately, masturbation is a healthy, sexy and stress-reducing activity we should all be adding to wellness routines, if and when we want to. Checking in with yourself and masturbating when wanted should be part of your wellbeing routine, like getting a good night’s sleep or eating more vegetables. You owe it to yourself to explore your body on your own terms and strengthen your personal health.
To read the previous It’s My Pleasure piece, click here