Women may not discuss masturbation as openly and often as men, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing it.
According to an informal poll (conducted by yours truly), 81% of women over the age of 18 said they masturbate. And regularly, too: of the 53 women polled, 30% said they masturbate more than once a week and 42% admitted they prefer masturbation to sex with another person.
So what’s preventing us from dishing on solo sex? Stigmas, for one. No one’s a stranger to myths about masturbation — blindness, vibrator addictions, a one-way ticket to hell. Dr. Rosara Torrisi, founder of the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy, suggests, “[The taboo exists] for religious reasons, as conservative cultures and families usually frown upon female sexual pleasure … and because female sexual pleasure involves genitals that are typically less obvious than male genitals, plenty of mystery remains around what parts do the trick.”
Even though “the masurbation talk” may initially seem unnecessary or slightly mortifying, communication is key — especially when it comes to your partner. Here’s why: A recent study on the variations in orgasms provides evidence that women have “less predictable, more varied orgasms” than men. In my poll, 50% of participants said they can bring themselves to climax in 5 minutes or less. That means, your partner may not have the right moves, but you do! Dr. Torrisi tells us, “If you already know your clitoris doesn’t like direct stimulation, it’s much easier to tell a partner to refrain from doing that.” Knowing what works for your body — and sharing that knowledge — could have a positive impact on your sex life and relationships.
Another way to counteract the shame that surrounds self-satisfaction is to raise our children in candid, communicative environments. Lauren P., one woman surveyed, shares, “I grew up with the most badass open mom who spoke about these things as we got older. There is definitely a role for generations before us in opening [these conversations] up!” She’s right: A 2016 study released by JAMA Pediatrics provides evidence that speaking honestly with kids has a profound effect on the way they understand human sexuality.
Personally, it never occurred to me that I should or could talk to other women about masturbating until I was in college. In my first semester, I made a friend who was not only transparent about her sex life, but unpacked a trunk full of sex toys in front of me like it was NBD. Spending time with her was liberating, refreshing, and paved the way for many of my girlfriends to discuss self-satisfaction. That’s really all it takes, just one person to pull back the covers. One person to tell it like it is.
Masturbation isn’t just good, it’s good for you. It reduces anxiety, helps you sleep, and according to Dr. Torrisi, “can support your sexual desires at times when you’re not partnered or unable to engage in sexually pleasurable activities with a partner. “ Masturbation is a healthy and normal part of life — talking about it can be, too.