People discover masturbation in various ways. Some touch or rub their genitals against something and realize “hey this feels good!”, some copy what they see in porn, some hear about it from friends, and some like me have no idea masturbation exists until their new boyfriend’s fingers have been innocently jammed up their vagina in all the wrong ways and they’ve turned to the internet for guidance. May is national masturbation month, and after reading Emmeline Peaches’ story of masturbation, I decided to share my own story in honor of this celebration of self-pleasure.
I began masturbating around the age of 15. I had just started dating my very first boyfriend, and we were learning the ropes of intimacy. I was committed to the idea of “running the bases”. First base (kissing), Second base (touching), Third base (oral), and eventually a “home run” (PIV intercourse). Once you mastered one base, you move onto the next. I now passionately and wholeheartedly reject this stupid metaphor for its heteronormative vibes and implied definition of “real sex”. At the time however, I was stuck on a very painful second base. See, without adequate sex-ed that at least touches on pleasure, my then boyfriend was simply mimicking what he had seen in porn, and what he had seen was men furiously thrusting their fingers into a woman moaning with pleasure. I have no idea how he failed to notice my obvious discomfort, but perhaps I was a better actress than I had thought. All the hints and jokes subtly fed to me throughout my life had told me it was incredibly shameful for a man to be bad at sex. I cared about him, and was afraid to hurt his feelings, so when he asked “does this feel good?” I smiled and said “yes”. Every time we would unbutton my pants I was excited and hopeful that this would be the time he would do something different. My excitement and desire for these sexytimes never faltered, but so did my disappointment at the end of each session. I became frustrated.
My first google searches looked like “how to get your boyfriend to finger you good”. My mind was stuck on the fact that he was supposed to be providing me pleasure, and that even though he was new to this too, somehow he should know how to do it. These articles had tips about communication. They recommended “honesty, letting your man know how it truly feels, moaning to give hints, and touching yourself to learn what feels good”. I was beyond surprised when I read this. Masturbate? Me? A girl? I knew boys masturbated, but I had never even considered the idea that girls did too. Now, it made complete sense. After all, I couldn’t guide him to touch me the way I wanted if I didn’t know how I liked to be touched! I was nervous to try, had no idea what I was doing, and no one to talk to about it. I didn’t tell my boyfriend about masturbation, but when I told him about my discomfort from his enthusiastic finger-jabbing, he said he would research it too, wasn’t hurt at all, and was glad for my input. Thus began the amazing communication that served as the basis for our relationship.
My google searches turned into “how to masterbate”. My first attempt mirrored my boyfriend’s attempts at pleasure, desperately wiggling my finger around in my vagina. Through these new articles, I discovered the magic button called the clitoris. Again I was confused. I had always equated pleasure with vaginal penetration (cough cough heteronormativity) and was completely mystified how something outside the body could be so pleasurable. I pored over diagrams of the vulva and finally gave my own anatomy a proper inspection. I searched and researched, reading anything I could get my curious eyes on, and again became frustrated. Despite the vastness of the internet, nothing would tell me exactly HOW to touch myself. I rejected every notion of “explore your body, everyone is different!”. God dammit I wanted pleasure, I wanted you to tell me exactly how to do it, and I wanted it NOW. Impatience, I suppose, was part of the problem here, but I also felt that I needed explicit directions.This was entirely new to me, after all. I wanted an educational, non-porny video with a real vulva, a list of exact motions to use on your clit, or some sort of description of techniques that work well for many women. I was completely lost. I read about sex toys and decided I wasn’t ready for those yet*, but I did discover my soon to be masturbatory best friend, the showerhead.
My love of the showerhead was immediate, strong, and soon, problematic. I’d lay down in the tub during a shower with the “massage” setting hovering above my clit and my other hand holding my labia back. At this point in my sexual research, I had learned the stages of the sexual response cycle: arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. My goal was to get to what I thought was the plateau, and then stop before I came. For some reason, I wanted my boyfriend to give me my first orgasm. I try not to analyze my younger self and go easy on her. I don’t know if it was some weird virginity concept that was in my brain or if I simply wanted to share this special moment with someone I cared about**. Regardless of my motive, I later came to learn that what I thought was the plateau phase was really a sub-par orgasm being forced out of me by my too-powerful showerhead. Like Emmeline Peaches, I was disappointed to learn that these were the magical orgasms that you would “just know” if you had. Eventually over the years they’ve improved with the use of toys and more experience, but I still go against the whole “oh, you’ll just know” idea, because no, you might not.
I am both forever grateful and forever bitter about my masturbation struggles. My need to research masturbation habits is what began my love for learning and teaching others about sex. If masturbation had come easily to me, I may have never discovered this passion. I may have never started this blog. More importantly, I may have never learned to communicate so well in relationships. I may have taken far longer to discover my own sexuality (which is still in the works and may always be). I could be an entirely different person. Despite that, I am bitter it was so hard and took so long to discover the simple act of masturbation. I worked my little butt off looking for all that information. It was a stressful, difficult, and sometimes shameful process, and could have been avoided with the aid of earlier sex-ed. I lacked any semblance of sex-ed throughout my entire education, but even if I had been taught about sex, it would have been penis + vagina = sex, STDs will make your dick fall off, don’t get pregnant, and girls, if you have sex no one will want you and your worth as a human being will be tarnished forever.
Because of my experience and the experiences of those around me, I want to become a sex educator. If I had received inclusive, comprehensive sex ed that talked about pleasure and communication in addition to discussion of STIs and pregnancy prevention methods, my masturbation journey would have been so much easier. I consider myself lucky. One of my friends is a junior in college and still feels uncomfortable touching herself with her hands because of stigma. Another college friend had never talked about masturbation before until she met me and my roommate, and was so relieved to finally ask questions and go vibrator shopping with us. So many kids of all genders begin masturbating feeling broken and scared of what is happening to them. Because of the current U.S. education system, these kids are unaware that masturbation is normal, healthy, and okay. We need proper sex-ed for all genders, sexual orientations, races, and economic classes. With this improvement, big changes would happen like a decline of teen pregnancy, reduction of STI transmission, and diminishing of sexual shame. With these big changes come little victories. Kids might not have to learn about masturbation from themselves, porn, friends, the internet, or wherever they can find it. Proper education would sooth fear, encourage exploration and positivity, and perhaps even avoid some misplaced finger-jabbing.
*My friends have actually used sex toys to begin learning how to masturbate, and it worked excellently for them!
**If this had been the case, I can easily forgive myself. I consider wanting to share something as intimate as an orgasm with someone a valid reason for my behavior.