May is now over but orgasms are always something to celebrate. Last month was Masturbation Month. I started to write this piece then as an ode to the female-identifying body and the pleasure it feels. But, as it does, life got in the way and I’m finally publishing this today. Nevertheless, self-satisfaction will always be something that I want to write and talk about. I never shied away from the details my solo sex life (I’ve always been that person who’s fine with the nudity on television but never with the acts of gore and war). Despite the current stardate, I know that masturbation is still taboo and embarrassing to talk about. But by being open with my sexual habits, I hope to start chipping away at that stigma. Masturbation is a healthy part of one’s sex life, as well as positive contributor to one’s physical and mental health.
I like to play with myself. Maybe a little too often. But I do it because I love myself.
I’ve never been shy with admitting that I enjoy enjoying myself. As someone with chronic anxiety, I’ve been looking for the perfect cocktail of medication and meditation to help calm my demons. Masturbation IS good for you. I always believed that everyone deserves a fulfilling sex life, whether it was partnered or solo. But masturbation has always been a little bit more for me. It has been self-soothing, calming down my mind and getting me in touch with my body. It is one of the few times that I can completely emerge myself in the present moment and let’s face it- it’s the best form of exercise.
I never felt pretty growing up and was a late bloomer sexually. In high school, my friends would talk about the various people that they were sleeping with and how sex felt for the first time. I’d listen, feeling jealous and alone but at night, I’d escape to the fantasy world that I created for myself. I’d shove my hand under the fabric of my underwear and break free. It was a place where I felt beautiful, sexy, desired and powerful. I could be whoever I wanted to be, as long as it wasn’t exactly me.
I had a typical west coast education- we had an okay sex ed program and learned about puberty and pregnancy. At the end of the school year, my health teacher, Mr. Padilla, had a Q and A where we could submit anonymous questions. There were plenty of asks about heteronormative sex; none about masturbation. We all asked questions about humping which probably two of the 30 students were actually doing. I guarantee the majority of us were masturbating, though.
Throughout my 20s, I had various partners and an active sex life. Despite the frequent heartache I’ve experienced, it has never been truly detrimental because there was always masturbation. I’d relive certain sexual moments I had with a partner or fantasize about the guy I gave my number to at the bar. Masturbation is what I turned to when my most serious of relationships started to crumble. He didn’t want to have sex anymore and I thought about cheating. I’d lay next to my now-ex and think about being underneath him. I’d grab my breasts the same way he did, hoping to confuse my brain into thinking my touch was his. If I could only be as gentle as he was when he touched me. I often thought other people, mostly his friends, touching me as I touched myself. I’d feel guilty when I came, like I just shared a horrible secret.
Since that moment, I’ve approached diddling with more tenderness and compassion for myself, trying to not associate the attention for myself with the attention (or lack of) from a partner. Turning 35 was a game-charger. I often heard about that big sexual energy twist that happens in those few years left of fertilely- my body is saying, “you need to mate” while my brain is very happy in its little single bubble. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought about going back on Tinder to escape the loneliness. But then I would hear the small, muffled cries of my vibrator where it was hiding in my sock drawer. “Play with me instead! Keep yourself and others safe! We have more fun together anyway.” (How can I resist that sweet voice?!) I credit masturbation for keeping me sane during the pandemic.
As I age, I’m trying to figure out other ways to use this immediate rush of serotonin and endorphins to my brain- could the benefits of masturbation be helpful outside of the bedroom? One night over drinks, my friend and talked about our frustration with our jobs and how we managed the stress. I admitted to the occasional cigarette, a habit that I hate.
“I masturbate,” Christina said.
I thought about it for a minute before replying. “I wish that I could do that. But it takes me forever to cum. Everyone would suspect why I’m gone so long from my desk.”
Christina shook her head. “I don’t masturbate until I cum. I just diddle myself until that mental light clicks on in my head and I’m full of good feelings again.”
Christina is clever and I often follow her advice. The following week, after a particularly awful team meeting, I slipped into the last stall in the restroom (the office’s private family room was unfortunately occupied). I bit my lips and went at it. The pain of my boss’s shrill voice vanished. I wasn’t a screw-up. I feel good. More good. I felt great. Everything was right in the world again. I didn’t need that cigarette. I was better to my body. I treated myself to the best feelings human have experience. I felt beautiful, powerful and satisfied.
I then washed my hands and walked back to my desk with a smile on my face. Masturbation made my frown flip upside down.
I’m not going to ask you if you do masturbate, dear reader (because I know that you do). But what are your thoughts about breaking the taboo behind it? How do we start talking about the positive sex experiences in our lives?