The author of this article is 18 years old and is thus legally allowed to talk about herself masturbating in the continental United States.
It is once again that time of year where returning college students make the long, weary trek back to their mediocre dorm rooms, and wide-eyed freshmen enter into a world of no parents, crushing homework, and sketchy dorm mates with eager anticipation. This year, I am one of those freshmen. While everyone’s first “official” day on campus after moving in is a little unnerving, I feel like I have a first day story to top the masses—on my first day as a freshman in college, I admitted to my entire class that I masturbate. But let me start from the beginning.
I feel as though my university* is wonderfully progressive in that one of the mandatory first-day assemblies it runs for freshmen is a sex-positive/healthy sex presentation by a former dominatrix and comedian*. Her act opened up by promising us, the audience, that if we answered a question, no matter how silly the answer, we would receive a Frisbee bearing the logo of our university. The first question—it was about the technical term for performing oral sex on a woman**–came and went with no big incident, and then came THE question.
“Stand up,” the presenter said, “if you have masturbated today.”
Just to clarify, I had not participated in private pleasures of the flesh that day, but as soon as I heard the word “masturbated,” I shot out of my seat. This is my chance, I thought. Now I’ll have to get one of those Frisbees. By the time I heard the word “today,” it was too late; not only was I already standing up, but out of the entire freshman class, I was the ONLY PERSON who was standing up. I was mortified. To add to my chagrin, most of the guys in the room stood up after me—to applaud me. As soon as I could, I sunk back down to my seat, while my friends howled with laughter. Probably the most embarrassing part was that I immediately texted my girlfriend to tell her about the situation, and she responded with “I know.” It turns out that her co-workers (she works for the university) were in the room and were quick to inform her about my new-found celebrity status.
I expected a lot of people to come up to me and joke around about what had happened afterwards. And they did. What shocked me was the amount of girls who came up to me afterwards to tell me that they were proud of me. That what I did was brave. That I was some kind of inspiration. And that made me so sad, because what does it show if your sexual inspiration is the weird girl who made a fool out of herself the first day of college? Talking to these girls reinforced what I already knew—girls are not comfortable with their sensuality or their bodies and even worse, they’re not educated on either topic.
I remember being in middle school and my best friend telling me she put a towel on as soon as she got out of the shower because she thought seeing her own body naked was too wanton. Before I got my period for the first time, my mother told me that when my grandmother got her period, she thought she was dying, and tried to send her body into shock to combat it. What horrified me more than that fact was that my grandmother must have introduced my mother to puberty by telling her that story, and now my mother was doing the same thing to me. And as educated as I claim to be about the human body, it took me an embarrassingly long time to learn what a “urethra” was, and it was only thanks to the deepest, darkest parts of the internet that I figured it out.
Boys, however, know all about their bodies and what they’re supposed to do with it before they’re even old enough to know the implications. If I had been one boy in a sea of freshman standing up and boldly admitting to the mystery of masturbation, I’m sure there would have been less of a reaction. Definitely there would be no shock factor—society assumes that boys masturbate for their own pleasure, but the mainstream never implies sexual pleasure for females unless it’s in the context of someone else’s pleasure. For example, the classic “comedy” trope: the awkward male lead has an opportunity to have sex with the woman of his dreams, and while he satisfies himself—often prematurely—the women leaves either disgusted or offended, but most certainly unsatisfied. While this is an extreme example and shows a severely unflattering stereotype of both men and women, the implications are clear: sexual pleasure is for men only.
So what can we do? To start with, girls and women can make a point to educate themselves about their bodies and its functions, and when they’re ready, about its various “extras.” I can’t deconstruct all the societal systems that hold women back from this in one article, but hopefully but I can point out a glaring problem from my own experiences.
When it comes down to it, I’m glad I stood up in that assembly. Maybe I made an idiot out of myself, but at least I gave people something to think about. And at the very least, I gained my very first college nickname: “the girl who masturbates.” Hopefully by the end of my four years here, I won’t be the only one.
* university name and performer’s name are not included because I am not affiliated with either
** it’s “cunnilingus,” in case you didn’t know