even though it seems like we’re experiencing a sex revolution of sorts, what’s really being liberated is mostly “sex with someone”, and not “sex with oneself”. even today, masturbation is still being the topic one’s supposed to feel too awkward to discuss in any form, let alone openly praising it. although sex shops might be springing up on more and more places, sex toys are often marketed as helpers to improve the sex lives of paired, heterosexual individuals (a great part of my Bachelor thesis actually dealt with this phenomenon, and it actually is a practice many sex toy manufacturers openly admit and promote). another issue is the gender inequality in portrayal of masturbation – as you might have noticed, it is pretty common to talk about or even show male masturbation, yet female masturbation seems to be this weird, mystical ritual no one actually really does. the truth is women do masturbate (and non-binary people too, ofc. PEOPLE do masturbate, and that’s the end of it). women watch porn. i do all of it, often and proudly. i even talk about it with my parents, like seriously, they know what my favorite sex toy is, because why the fuck not? as Michel Foucault would say, this stigma around parents and children discussing sex is just a (quite new in fact – a couple of centuries old) social construct.
for me, sex and masturbation are completely different, even though they are, um, executed in the same areas and aim at the same thing. both are here to satisfy a specific need, yet both feel completely different. it’s a bit like eating – when you cook for yourself, you mostly focus on satisfying your hunger, and from time to time you like to try new recipes and treat yourself. you know what you like, and you usually go for that. it’s about satisfying a certain need you would survive without. whereas having sex with someone else is more of an event, kind of like preparing a dinner or going to a nice restaurant. it’s nice, but you can live without that, kinda (again, that’s my own view of things). you’re still eating and enjoying it, but it’s the other factors that make it so special, and the whole setting makes it more of an experience. see where i’m heading? having sex with someone and masturbating might be the same at its core, but sex has all these added factors that differentiate it completely.
another thing is that through masturbation, detached from its “oh it’s pathetic and for losers only” stigma, it might be way easier for many people to test new things and push their boundaries. now i’m gonna get very specific and personal, so buckle up – not a long time ago i had my first experience with anal play and really liked it, but did not really enjoy straight up anal penetration. so i bought some toys and decided to test it myself, and figured i actually loved it, but needed some time to explore this part of my body and to get to know my own limits. to get back to my eating metaphor, sometimes you want to try new things but are afraid you might not like it or don’t want to spend a fortune on it in a restaurant, so you buy it in the store, google a recipe and test it on your own. and then you might realise you love that ingredient or that specific dish, and wanna try it more and perhaps with some other people and in a nice setting. and that’s like saying “hey, let’s try anal” with a partner (or partners). but also, who says you have to try anything with someone else if you satisfy yourself just fine? why have bad sex with someone who doesn’t even care that much (now i’m hinting at bad one-night-stands etc.) when you can have a great orgasm thanks to your own hand or one of the little lovely and helpful toys that are so easy to buy now? or, why pay for a shitty fast food meal when you can buy some nice ingredients and cook yourself a nice dinner?
by the way, here’s a concept related to that thought – what if i told you that “virginity” was just a very sexist social construct and that those with a hymen don’t actually need to have a penis shoved up their vaginas, but could use a sex toy to lose their imaginary holy virginity by themselves? wow, right? (and also, what if we took a bit more time to discuss the whole heterosexist nature of the concept of virginity which devalues any other forms of sexual experience? would you be up for that?)
anyway, before i get totally lost in metaphors and various related critical theories, let me get back to my main point. there is nothing wrong with masturbation, quite the opposite. masturbation has been proven to be incredibly helpful in improving one’s self esteem and body image, and, surprise surprise, as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs (oh yeah, here’s another wild concept – masturbation can basically be a sexual act you do with, or—rather—in front of, someone). it’s a great way to explore one’s body and to figure out what you might like. it is by no means something to be ashamed of doing, and definitely not something “only losers” do. it is natural, normal, helpful, and in certain ways, educative. it’s self-care and self-love.