If you were assigned female at birth, you’ve probably spent your entire life having people tell you – subtly and overtly – that your body, your sexuality, existed to fulfill men’s pleasure and/or make babies.
This message comes in a lot of forms. The pressure to be pretty (but not vain). To be sexy (but not slutty). To want children (but not be baby crazy). When we’re teenagers, it takes the form of school dress codes designed to prevent us from “distracting” boys, and constant questions over whether we have a boyfriend yet.
I can still remember the day when I was 14 or 15 and my parents’ religious leader was praying over each person in the sanctuary, one by one. I was sure that when he came to me, he’d say something about my writing. All I wanted at that stage of my life was to become a journalist. Surely, he’d pray for me to become a fine, upstanding reporter, upholding truth and keeping the community informed. Nope.
He prayed that I’d grow up to become a godly wife and mother.
So what happens when people spend more than a decade telling you that you exist solely to serve men’s pleasure, with a side of baby-making?
The Toll of Objectification
When people tell you that you exist to serve someone else’s pleasure, you decide your own pleasure doesn’t matter. This can have repercussions that ripple through not only your sex life, but other facets of your life as well.
When people tell you your pleasure doesn’t matter, you neglect it.
This leads to people with vulvas not knowing what they want in bed. Or if we do know, we feel ashamed to ask for it. After all, everyone told us we weren’t supposed to want it. They told us to save it for a special man and give it to him as a gift.
When people tell you your body exists to be admired by men, you can feel like a failure if you don’t live up to whatever society’s current beauty standards are.
When people tell you that your ability to create life is the most special thing about you, you can feel like your desirability ends when your fertility does.
When you are told that your sexuality is a commodity for someone else to consume, you can even find yourself agreeing to sex that you don’t want.
Objectification tells AFAB and femme-presenting people that what we want doesn’t matter.
Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands
Is self-pleasure a radical act? I think it can be. I think taking control of your own pleasure is a form of empowerment. And honestly, in our current productivity-obsessed culture, taking any time for yourself can feel like a radical act.
Your pleasure does not have to feel like a commodity that you have to hoard or trade away. Pleasing yourself doesn’t take away from a hypothetical lover. In fact, masturbation can actually be a boon to partnered sex, but we’ll talk about that later.
Right now, we’re focused on you.
Masturbation is your time to focus on your pleasure.
You don’t have to perform for a partner, or put their pleasure first, or feel guilty if it takes you a while to come.
You don’t have to think about how you look or sound.
There is no right or wrong way to masturbate. This is your time to indulge in what you enjoy. You can set the mood with erotica, porn, or mental fantasies. Light a scented candle, or wear your favorite perfume. Put on your favorite silky nightie and enjoy the sensation against your skin. Or you can just get down to it, without any special prep. Again, it’s about what makes you happy.
Masturbation gives you the chance to simply enjoy your body.
Figure out whether you have more fun with your fingers or with a toy. I personally have recently found that I love KURVE g-spot vibrator. Some people prefer to focus the action on their clit with something like DiGiT finger vibrator. And of course, there’s the old standby of the showerhead. You do you (literally!).
The Empowering Benefits of Masturbation
Some of the benefits of masturbation are obvious. There’s the orgasms, for instance. Even if you don’t come, there’s still the restful benefits of taking the time to do something just for yourself. Masturbation can be very relaxing. You may find you sleep better after a good O.
Perhaps more importantly, the more you come to understand your own body and your own pleasure, the more empowered you may feel.
When you know what you like in bed, you can feel confident asking for it.
This confidence can make for better sex for both you and your partner, as you can connect and communicate about what you enjoy. If your lover doesn’t deliver, you can feel comfortable taking care of your own needs. If your lover regularly discounts your pleasure, you can kick them to the curb, because you know you deserve better.
As you take the time to discover your body, you might learn new things about yourself. What if you decided that the parts of you which you previously thought were too soft are actually delightful to touch? If the old shame about your sexual desires fell away? If you let go of ideas about what and who your body is meant for?
In celebration of masturbation May, remember:
Your pleasure is yours for the taking.