Consent with Caitlin: Masturbation nation


Content warning: References to sexual acts are included in this article

Jerking off, flicking the bean, rubbing one out, self-pleasuring, playing with or touching yourself, beating your meat, flying solo. There are just so many different ways to talk about the Big M — masturbation — but we don’t actually talk about it. 

Our culture has taught us that masturbation is weird, taboo, sometimes even sinful. But it’s not! Flying solo is normal and almost everyone does it — or wants to. 

Like most sex-related topics, the conversation around masturbation is not the same for everyone. Shame and stigma abound for people with vaginas more than those with penises. Jules Arthur-Grable, Butler’s sexual assault and response prevention specialist, frames how expectations for masturbation differ across genders. 

“Boys are expected to masturbate or have nocturnal emissions or what have you and it’s quote, unquote, ‘normal’ for a mom to find like a [crusty] sock or something, that’s expected and it’s viewed as more normal behavior,” Arthur-Grable said. “But if a vulva owner does the same kind of activities, it’s maybe considered a little bit more shameful, because that’s not something good girls do. Women are supposed to walk this very fine line of being virginal but also a sexual being.”

To all the misogynists out there, how are women supposed to be knowledgeable enough to pleasure you if we’re not allowed to pleasure ourselves?

For women especially, expectations of how to exist in this society are often contradictory. Women are constantly objectified; our value is in our beauty, our body and especially the vajayjay. But should we take advantage of this sexualization and act as sexual creatures, we are treated with labels like “slut” or “whore,” among other extremely derogatory names. 

Being shamed for our sexuality influences every aspect of our lives, including self-pleasure. Flicking the bean is not a common topic of conversation, and that just exacerbates the feelings of guilt and shame that surround masturbation. Those feelings and expectations can make it really hard sometimes to explore your own body. 

In my experience, exploring my own body and figuring out what I like was actually really hard. Unfortunately, I don’t have a penis, so it wasn’t even the fun kind of hard. 

Of course, this is not to say that solely women feel the stigma around the Big M; I, personally, place a lot of blame on the sex education in America — specifically, the view of sex as functional rather than pleasurable. 

“We aren’t taught about the pleasurable aspects of sex,” Arthur-Grable said. “Sex education in this country is wildly misrepresented… It’s only shown in one particular light. And it is not discussed outside of ‘This is how you make a baby, and this is what STDs look like.’ That’s it. That’s sex education in America… We need to talk about how our bodies respond in sexual situations.”

There are consequences to the abysmal curriculum that is sex education in America. We aren’t taught what good sex is, how to explore your own body or how to have healthy sexual relations. Our sex education lacks in so many aspects and it has a negative impact on people’s perceptions of sex. 

“People don’t know what their own bodies are capable of doing and are scared, or ashamed of learning more or trying more with their own bodies,” Arthur-Grable said. “Which is really sad, in my opinion, your body can do some pretty cool stuff… We should be able to celebrate that, like celebrate what your body can do.”

So having this socialized shame and guilt surrounding the Big M might make it hard for you to be comfortable with exploring your own body. My advice is to be patient with yourself! As cheesy as it sounds, you have to give yourself consent to have a good time.

“Go at whatever pace and whatever feels most comfortable for you and avoid shaming yourself,” Arthur-Grable said. “We’ve got enough shame in the world, you don’t need to shame yourself too. Jerk off, it’s okay. It’s a stress reliever.”

Not only does masturbation have a multitude of positive effects, it’s 100% safe. There’s no risk of STDs, STIs or pregnancy. Yay for self-pleasure!

If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve linked some possible sexy toys and other resources that you can use to start with that self-exploration, if you feel so inclined.

Possible tools for the Big M are: vibrators, dildos, fleshlights, sexy literature — but please, NOT PornHub. As an alternative, check out some ethically made porn if you’re more of a visual learner. Of course, there are so many other options, but this is a great list for starting out on your self-exploration journey! 


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