It’s healthy, it’s common and it’s completely normal – it’s masturbation. So why are so many women ashamed and embarrassed to talk about the subject? It’s not exactly dinner talk, but surely if a man can discuss what he gets up to in private, why can’t the other half of the population? Whilst we live in a society where we can pretty much talk about anything, and women are supposedly considered equal, it raises the question: ‘Why has female masturbation remained such a taboo topic?’
Believe it or not, masturbation has been proven to have a number of health benefits, from relieving stress and headaches, right to strengthening the immune system. And if you’re lucky enough to achieve the big O, it can also help those suffering with depression because of the endorphins released during an orgasm. Certainly nothing to be scoffed at.
What’s even better is that most women are doing it. Unfortunately, many are just too embarrassed or ashamed to admit it. In a recent survey conducted by a student at the University of Portsmouth, it was found that whilst over 93% of females masturbate or have tried it, almost 50% said that they feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about it.
From the survey, one woman described the taboo nature of masturbation as a: “hangover from the days where women were subjugated; women should be seen and not heard.” This just goes to show that even in the 21st century we are still fighting for equality, particularly when it comes to matters involving sex.
Laura, a store manager at sex toy and lingerie shop, Ann Summers, believes views are beginning to change, particularly with the influence of Sex and The City and the infamous book, Fifty Shades of Grey, which was published in 2011.
Laura explained: “Before, you’d often get a lot of people coming in saying ‘Oh I’m buying for a friend’ or they’d be quite nervous, whereas now, it’s become a lot more acceptable to say it’s for you.”
Laura commented, that for women, “sex has always been a taboo subject” and we still live in a “sexist society”. She feels that the stereotypes about a woman who masturbates still exist and some people may label it as ‘slutty’.
Despite the different opinions, Laura was all for female masturbation, saying:
“At the end of the day, unless you know what you like, you can’t expect your partner to know, and you won’t get the best out of your sex life”
However, one woman offered a very different perspective. Both religion and culture still have an important role in society, especially when it comes to sex.
Anita* is from an Indian, Hindu background and has been raised in a culture where sexual activity, including masturbation, is not allowed before marriage. Although, Anita isn’t a devout Hindu and she expressed her views on women being able to do what they want with their bodies, she has never pleasured herself sexually. She feels that her religious and cultural background has played a significant part in her reasoning for this.
Anita stated: “The scriptures and the holy books say you’re not supposed to have sex before marriage, which basically involves anything related.”
“For Asian families you just don’t speak about sex – to know that your kids are having sex before marriage is just the ultimate shame”
She also added that if her family found that she was sexually active before marriage they would kick her out of the house, which she described as “so scary.”
Like Laura, Anita hopes that the views on the topic will soon change and she believes that if parents and schools talk about masturbation more, it will eventually become “less of a taboo”.
Whilst Anita provided an extremely interesting viewpoint, showing the significance of religion and the influence it has on many people’s lives, it is also clear that sexist views and stereotypes remain about a woman pleasuring herself.
Women have every right to freely express their sexuality without judgement. In the survey, one person had put across a very valid point: “Sex is not owned by men, and it’s about time women were treated equally in regards to the subject of masturbation.” The truth of the matter is, there is no harm in a bit of DIY pleasure from time to time. As long as we feel comfortable with what we do with our bodies, what’s the biggie?
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons