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Women Wank – Come Again?

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Imogen on why the stigma attached to female masturbation needs to end.

Some years later I realised Gemma Taylor probably did finger herself.

‘Did you know Gemma Taylor fingers herself?’

Uproar in the P.E changing room. A chorus of ‘what?’ and ‘really?’ as the words ricocheted between the walls and pinched our ear drums with its grubby fingers. With alarm bells in our throats we rioted against this act of repulsion. The biggest protester of us all, Gemma Taylor herself, shrieked strings of ‘ew.’ and ‘no, I don’t,’ and ‘That’s DISGUSTING’.

We nodded in agreement: disgusting. Wanking is disgusting. I stood at the back, embarrassed, and hoped my howls were louder than my flushed cheeks.

Some years later I realised Gemma Taylor probably did finger herself. And she probably loved it.

But we weren’t willing to admit that. We continued to ridicule her shocking surrender to self pleasure to drown out the shame of our own. There is a constant discourse of disgrace around sex as a woman, and it isn’t difficult to recognise it. It exists loudly in the biting use of ‘slut shaming’ women who enjoy sex with many people; in the hyper-sexualisation of body parts like nipples and legs, which leads to a pressure to ‘cover up’; in the use of language such as ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ to describe a promiscuous woman, whilst a negative parallel for a man does not exist. These are just a few examples in a sea of female sexual shame, and many of these issues are being addressed by movements such as Free The Nipple and SlutWalk.

And yet, there is still a prominent topic that is branded a taboo: female masturbation. Despite being in a supposedly sexually progressive world, a world where porn is not shocking, where people are willing to explore and experiment with their sexual identity, where you can buy sex toys in Superdrug… we still refuse to talk about the fact that women wank.

There is a constant discourse of disgrace around sex as a woman.

Why is this? Why do our lips remain sealed about our legs being open? Why is it, that when a woman takes control of her sexuality, it is shameful and embarrassing? Why must the act of a woman governing her own pleasure be viewed as disgusting and unclean? It is clear that this taboo comes from a place of misogyny, a fear of the independent woman. Female masturbation is a small act that threatens to dismantle a key component in our patriarchal society: the belief that women’s sexuality must be disciplined by men. After all, what is more threatening to the male ego than a sexually liberated woman? A woman who doesn’t need a man to feel good?

This attitude is woven into the way we live, resonating in the way we teach girls to view their own bodies. At school, my class was split into boys and girls during sex education. In our separate classrooms, the girls sat quietly through lessons about menstruation, whilst the boys learnt about the ins and outs (excuse the pun) of masturbation. From the age of nine I have been taught that wanking is natural for men in the way a period is for a woman; unlike women, men have a natural need for sex. This, of course, is not true. And in the meantime, I was left to discover female masturbation for myself via a porn video my friend showed me (for obvious reasons, this is not the ideal way to become sexually enlightened). Before this, I didn’t even know it existed. I didn’t even know women could have an orgasm.

Why must the act of a woman governing her own pleasure be viewed as disgusting and unclean?

For so long, this is where I thought female masturbation was socially acceptable: in the context of porn. When it was sexy and polished and clean and shiny. When it was for male pleasure. When the pubic hair was shaved and the underwear was lacy and the makeup was heavy and body was posed. This is where it continues to be deemed as acceptable for most people; when it doesn’t look messy – and suddenly, the unshaven, unshowered girl touching herself beneath her pyjamas is an image swelling with repulsion.

As women, many of us have internalised this disgust; it resonates in the lack of conversation around masturbation, the gap in sex education, our sickened remarks at Gemma Taylor. Why is it that men can talk about wanking until the cows come home, but at the slightest reference to a self-induced orgasm, women fall silent? It is time to quash this loathing of our own bodies, of our own satisfaction.

For so long, this is where I thought female masturbation was socially acceptable: in the context of porn.

What I’m really trying to say, is I think all of us women should just go home and have a wank. Find out whatever gets you off. Chat about it with your girlfriends. Own that orgasm. Love that body. It is healthy, and often interesting to explore the wonder of our own bodies. Feeling stressed? Have a wank. Can’t sleep? Have a wank. Need a general mood lift? Have a damn wank. Masturbation has been medically recognised to help with all of these things; sometimes it’s needed. Often, it’s wanted. I will always remember my friend’s mum drunkenly serving up some solid advice at a house party: if you can’t find out what your body enjoys by yourself, how will you know what it enjoys when someone else is doing it?

At its core, it’s just fun. Let’s encourage ourselves and fellow women, rather than hiding our faces and pretending it doesn’t exist. Our bodies are temples and it is absolutely necessary to worship them, so ladies: go have fun. And Gemma Taylor, wherever you are, I hope you’re still fingering yourself.

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