I remember being taught not to touch my "private spots" as early as the age of four. I had no idea why these were the rules, but it obviously made me extremely curious.
My first memory of masturbating was around the same time I went into kindergarten. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. I just knew it felt so good. I remember being aware that I was doing something taboo–it was something I had to hide, as instructed by my mother and her private spot talks. So naturally, I did not tell a soul.
Fast-forward eight years. A boy in my 7th grade science class gets caught with his pants down at his desk.
When confronted by the teacher, his response was, "My dad said it was normal."
That was a day that would change my life forever: I would never shut up about masturbating again.
Let’s normalize female sexuality!
Women are taught to fight their sexual urges, or worse, that it is not normal to even have them in the first place. This creates an inherent feeling of guilt, followed by an aftermath of shame.
How is a woman supposed to feel comfortable with her own body when she is not taught to explore it? Men are raised to give in to their urges–even praised for following through with their sexual desires. This usually plays out among peers around the same time that puberty hits: middle school. The first girl in the class to act on her sexual desire is labeled a slut or a whore. Meanwhile, a so-called sexually active boy in the class is labeled a god, envied by his peers.
In middle school, I began to discuss masturbation with my friends, but it was clear that I was in the minority. Not only had most girls I talked to never touched themselves, they had never even once looked “down there.” While it was clear that this was a topic many girls were uncomfortable talking about, I felt so strongly about my feeling (I was still unaware that the feeling was intense sexual pleasure) that I wanted every other girl to feel it too.
I was 15 when I realized I had been giving myself orgasms for a very long time (that feeling, remember?). I became sexually active at a young age and despite the amount of times I had to endure the word slut, I felt powerful. As I began to try new things with boys, I realized that I always felt in control. I didn't look for a more experienced person to show me around my own body–I could draw the map myself. I spent so much time exploring myself that it became second nature to be able to voice my desires to a partner.
Now, I’m not saying that masturbation allows women to automatically avoid sexual assault in the future. However, I know that a huge part of my sexual confidence in these situations was born out of my exploration with self-pleasure.
One of my best friends gifted me my first vibrator for Christmas as a teenager (if you're lucky enough to have a friend who cares about your orgasms, keep them around). It was a twisty, pink little stick of magic that I never knew I needed until I used it for the first time. I named it Flounder after a tune from an age-old Disney movie with subtle sexual humor:
Under the sea
Darling it's better
Down where it's wetter
Take it from me…
Sex toys can be intimidating.
The shapes and sizes can leave you wondering, “Where exactly does that fit in? Will it fit anywhere at all?” My advice is to start out small. A small vibrator that’s just big enough to stimulate the clitoris can change everything about the way you achieve an orgasm. When you become comfortable with that, it can be easier to explore the bigger, crazy-shaped toys. Remember: they are toys, after all, so if you're having fun with them, you're probably doing it right!
To this day, my favorite vibrator is the Crave Vesper. It appears to be a silver necklace–about the length of your middle finger. Besides the fact that it's aesthetically pleasing, this miniature goddess has four speeds, heats itself up, and is rechargeable with a USB (it’s 2017, no one needs the inconvenience of running to the store to grab a pack of batteries mid-masturbation).
I would not be the woman I am today if I had listened to my mother and never touched myself “down there.” Young girls should not be taught to shy away from their bodies and curiosities. I gained so much confidence by learning to please myself sexually. I learned independence knowing I did not need to rely on another human to help me achieve orgasm. Throughout my life, masturbating has been an art through which I constantly discover new things about my own body. In turn, I have become at home in my own skin. All women deserve to feel at home in their own skin.
More Vibrators for Beginners:
1. Minna Limon